With heavy hearts but also the joy of having known a vibrant light, we share the news that Dorothy Lemelson (Dolly to friends and family) passed away on Wednesday, March 10.
Born in Perth Amboy, NJ, in 1926, Dorothy attended Parsons School of Design in Manhattan. Upon graduation in 1947, she taught brieﬂy at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts while establishing herself professionally as an interior designer. She began dating Jerome (Jerry) Lemelson in 1953 when they were reintroduced 15 years after their ﬁrst meeting as children. Four years later, Jerry quit his job as an engineer to dedicate his time and attention to invention. Jerry would ultimately become one of America’s most proliﬁc and successful independent inventors with more than 600 issued patents in areas ranging across toys and games, machine vision, automatic production and warehousing, medical devices, and others.
In 1994, Dolly and Jerry visited the National Museum of American History and began a relationship that would lead to the creation of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. The Center’s founding director Art Molella recalls, “To Dolly, compassion was the true mother of invention. This compassion reached far beyond her work into all aspects of her life, touching everyone she encountered. I was immediately struck by how beautifully Dolly and Jerry complemented each other. She matched his deep analytical capacity with her extraordinary aesthetic sensibilities—twin qualities widely recognized as essential to the spirit of humane invention. For us at the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center, it was an inspiration.”
Dolly remained an inquisitive and enthusiastic supporter of the Lemelson Center through its ﬁrst 25 years, including welcoming its second director, Arthur Daemmrich, in 2015. She strongly endorsed the Center’s attention to the diversity of inventors throughout history and to developing inventive habits of mind, especially in young people engaging with the Center’s Spark!Lab invention activities.
We celebrate Dolly Lemelson's life, her close partnership in Jerry’s invention process, and her incredible legacy.