Jerome Lemelson shared many traits with other successful American inventors—insatiable curiosity, keen problem-solving skills, tenacity, and flexibility in the face of failure. With more than 600 patents to his name for inventions ranging from medical and industrial technologies to toys, he was one of America’s most prolific and versatile inventors. He and his wife Dorothy were inspired by the power of invention to change the world and established the Lemelson Foundation to promote invention and entrepreneurship and to support the work of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center.
Many inventors use similar techniques to create something new. Sketching captures raw ideas. Prototypes or models demonstrate and test how the idea works. Patents describe inventions in words and drawings and give inventors exclusive legal rights to make and sell their work for several years. Lemelson used these same techniques to invent new playthings. About 70 of Lemelson’s patents describe toys, including his first patent, issued in 1953, for a new kind of propeller beanie.