For a quick dose of inspiration, let’s take a look at some game-changing individuals who revolutionized their respective fields. These men and women were pioneers and forever altered the way things were done by those who followed in their footsteps. They’re the Steve Jobs of their discipline but much less famous.
Here are 4 innovators you’ve probably never heard of.
American athlete Dick Fosbury popularized the high jump technique named after him, the Fosbury Flop, in 1968. At the time, the scissor jump (legs swing over the bar like scissors, land on your feet) and the western roll (head first, belly down) were the two most common high jump styles. But it was during the 1968 Olympics that Fosbury introduced his strange-looking head first, belly up method on the world stage. He won the gold medal, set a new Olympic record at 7 feet 4.25 inches, and forever changed the sport.
Epidemiologist Caroline Buckee traveled to Kenya in 2006 on a research trip to study the spread of malaria in the Sub-Saharan nation. Though it’s a treatable and preventable, the World Health Organization estimates that malaria kills 660,000 individuals a year, mostly children under five. While in Kenya, Buckee began studying cell phone data to find patterns that could be related to malaria outbreaks. Sure enough, a pattern emerged -- the original hot spot of a malaria outbreak could be detected from calls made through a certain phone tower. Buckee and her team hope that their research will be used to develop ways to slow the spread of malaria following an initial outbreak. Buckee was named one of MIT’s 35 Innovators Under 35 this year.
Thomas J. Barratt
Known as “the father of modern marketing,” Thomas J. Barratt pioneered a number of advertising techniques while serving as Chairman of soap manufacturer A. & F. Pears, founded in 1789 and still in production today under the Unilever Group umbrella. In 1887, Barrett purchased the rights to John Everett Millais’ painting Bubbles, and famously added the Pear name to the foreground, making it one of the most famous advertisements of the 19th century. He successfully created a strong brand image for Pears, associating the soap with domestic wellbeing, quality, and social aspirations with the novel idea of prevalent advertising, celebrity endorsements, and testimonials from scientists.
Swedish engineer Nihls Bohlin, who served as Volvo’s Chief Safety Engineer, is responsible for the invention of the three-point seatbelt, first introduced in Volvo cars in 1959. Up until that point, only two-point lap belts were included in automobiles, and few people used them due to their inconvenience and spotty safety record. “It was just a matter of finding a solution that was simple, effective and could be put on conveniently with one hand,” Bohlin once said.
Following the release of Bohlin’s three-point seatbelt, Volvo, concerned with improving the safety of all drivers and passengers on the road, decided not to patent it and instead made the belt available to other car manufacturers for free. Today, seatbelts save over 13,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone.
Do you have any names to add to this list? Share them with us @NapkinBetaBeyond!