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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
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M

MAGEE, CARL
The parking meter is a device for generating money from a parking spot. When you put money in the meter, you are allowed to park for a given amount of time - after that, you can be given a parking ticket.

The parking meter was invented by Carl C. Magee of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA. The first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City. Magee holds a patent (#2,118,318) for a "coin controlled parking meter," filed on May 13, 1935 and issued on May 24, 1938.

MAGNETIC COMPASS
The earliest-known compass dates from China, during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC - 2nd century AD). This early compass was made from lodestone, a naturally-magnetic variety of magnetite ore. A spoon-shaped piece of lodestone was placed upon a bronze disk, and the lodestone always pointed north. This early compass was not used for navigation at first; it was used for divination (for use in Feng Shui), to determine fortuitous placement of buildings, etc.
MAILBOX
The street letter drop mailbox with a hinged door that closed to protect the mail was invented by Philip B. Downing. Downing, an African-American inventor, patented his new device on October 27, 1891 (US Patent # 462,093).
radioMARCONI, GUGLIELMO
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) was an Italian inventor and physicist. In 1895, Marconi promoted and popularized the radio (wireless telegraphy), building machinery to transmit and receive radio waves. His first transmission across an ocean (the Atlantic Ocean) was on December 12, 1901. Marconi won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1909.
MARSHMALLOW
Marshmallow candy was first made by ancient Egyptians over three thousand years ago. The Egyptians made candy from the root of the marshmallow plant (Althea officinalis), a plant that grows in marshes. Today's marshmallows do not contain any mallow root - gelatin is substituted for the sweet, sticky root.
MASKING TAPE
tapeRichard G. Drew (1899-1980) invented masking tape and clear adhesive tape (also called cellophane tape or Scotch tape). Drew was an engineer for the 3M company (the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing).

Drew's first tape invention was a masking tape made for painters in 1923 (this tape was designed to help painters paint a straight border between two colors). This early masking tape was a wide paper tape with adhesive on only the edges of the tape - not in the middle. Drew made an improved tape called Scotch (TM) Brand Cellulose Tape in 1930. This tape was a clear, all-purpose adhesive tape that was soon adopted worldwide. The first tape dispenser with a built-in cutting edge was invented in 1932 by John A. Borden, another 3M employee.

MAUCHLEY, JOHN WILLIAM
ENIAC stands for "Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer." It was one of the first all-purpose, all-electronic digital computers. This room-sized computer was built by the physicist John William Mauchly (Aug. 30, 1907 - Jan. 8, 1980) and the electrical engineer John Presper Eckert, Jr. (April 9, 1919 - June 3, 1995) at the University of Pennsylvania. They completed the machine in November, 1945.

For more information on ENIAC, click here.

MAYONNAISE
Mayonnaise was invented in France hundreds of years ago, probably in 1756 by the French chef working for the Duke de Richelieu, The first ready-made mayonnaise was sold in the US in 1905 at Richard Hellman's deli in New York. Hellman sold his wife's mayonnaise in open wooden boats. In 1912, he sold the mayonnaise in large glass bottles; the type he called "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise" was very popular and is still sold today (it is now owned by Best Foods).
McCORMICK, CYRUS HALL
1931 McCormick reaperCyrus Hall McCormick (February 15, 1809 - May 13, 1884) was an American inventor (of Irish descent) who developed the mechanical reaper. His new machine combined many of the steps involved in harvesting crops, greatly increased crop yields, decreased the number of field hands needed for the harvest, lowered costs, and revolutionized farming.

For more information on McCormick, click here.

McCOY, ELIJAH
Elijah McCoy (1843 or 1844-1929) was a mechanical engineer and inventor. McCoy's high-quality industrial inventions (especially his steam engine lubricator) were the basis for the expression "the real McCoy," meaning the real, authentic, or high-quality thing.

For more information on Elijah McCoy, click here. For a cloze activity on McCoy, click here.

McVICKER, NOAH and JOSEPH
Play-Doh, a popular children's modeling clay, was invented by Noah W. McVicker and Joseph S. McVicker. They patented Play-Doh in 1956 (patent # 3,167,440). The original Play-Doh was sold in only one color, off- white. Eventually, many colors were marketed. Over 700 million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold, but the formula is still a secret.
MECHANICAL PENCIL
The mechanical pencil was invented in 1915 by Tokuji Hayakawa (November 3, 1894-June 24, 1980). His first mechanical pencil was called the "Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil." Hayakawa had owned a metalworking shop in Tokyo, Japan, and in 1942, expanded his company and renamed it the Hayakawa Electric Industry Co.,Ltd. It was later called the Sharp Corporation (1970), and Hayakawa was appointed chairman.
MECHANICAL REAPER
1931 McCormick reaperCyrus Hall McCormick (February 15, 1809 - May 13, 1884) was an American inventor (of Irish descent) who developed the mechanical reaper. His new machine combined many of the steps involved in harvesting crops, greatly increased crop yields, decreased the number of field hands needed for the harvest, lowered costs, and revolutionized farming.

For more information on McCormick, click here.

MEDICINE BALL
The medicine ball is a weighed ball used in strength training; medicine balls range from 2 to 60 pounds in weight. The medicine ball was invented by William "Iron Duke" Muldoon, a nineteenth-century wrestling champion and boxing trainer.
MESTRAL, GEORGE DE
George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer who invented Velcro in 1948. While hiking, he had noticed that burrs (burdock seeds) stuck to his clothing extraordinarily well. The burrs had hook-like protrusions that attached themselves firmly to clothing. Mestral used this same model to develop Velcro, which consists of one strip of nylon with loops, and another with hooks. Mestral patented Velcro in 1957. It was originally used mostly for fastening clothes, but is now used to fasten many other things.
METER (and the METRIC SYSTEM)
The metric system was invented in France. In 1790, the French National Assembly directed the Academy of Sciences of Paris to standardize the units of measurement. A committeee from the Academy used a decimal system and defined the meter to be one 10-millionths of the distance from the equator to the Earth's Pole (that is, the Earth's circumference would be equal to 40 million meters). The committee consisted of the mathematicians Jean Charles de Borda (1733-1799), Joseph-Louis Comte de Lagrange (1736-1813), Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827), Gaspard Monge (1746 -1818), and Marie Jean Antoine Nicholas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794)

The word meter comes from the Greek word metron, which means measure. The centimeter was defined as one-hundredth of a meter; the kilometer was defined as 1000 meters. The metric system was passed by law in France on August 1, 1793. In 1960, the definition of the meter changed to 1,650,763.73 wavelengths of of the orange-red radiation of krypton 86. In 1983, the meter was redefined as 1/299,792,458 of the distance that light travels in one second in a vacuum.

For the metric unit of mass, the gram was defined as the mass of one cubic centimeter of pure water at a given temperature. In common usage and in commerce, grams are used as a unit of weight.

MICROELECTRODE
Henrietta HydeIda Henrietta Hyde (1857-1945) was an American physiologist who invented the microelectrode in the 1930's. The microelectrode is a small device that electrically (or chemically) stimulates a living cell and records the electrical activity within that cell. Hyde was the first woman to graduate from the University of Heidelberg, to do research at the Harvard Medical School and to be elected to the American Physiological Society.
MICROSCOPE
The microscope may have been invented by eyeglass makers in Middelburg, The Netherlands, invented sometime between 1590 and 1610. Hans and his son Zacharias Janssen are mentioned in the letters of William Boreel ( the Dutch envoy to the Court of France) as having invented a 20X magnification microscope.

Robert Hooke used an early microscope to observe slices of cork (bark from the oak tree) using a 30X power compound microscope. He published his observations in "Microgphia" in 1665. In 1673, Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, free-living and parasitic microscopic protists, sperm cells, blood cells, etc., using a 300X power single lens microscope.

Click here for a microscope printout to label. Click here for a microscope definition worksheet to print.

MICROWAVE OVEN
The microwave oven was invented as an accidental by-product of war-time (World War 2) radar research using magnetrons (vacuum tubes that produce microwave radiation). In 1946, the engineer Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer, who worked for the Raytheon Corporation, was working on magnetrons. One day at work, he had a candy bar in his pocket, and found that it had melted. He realized that the microwaves he was working with had caused it to melt. After experimenting, he realized that microwaves would cook foods quickly - even faster than conventional ovens that cook with heat. The Raytheon Corporation produced the first commercial microwave oven in 1954; it was called the 1161 Radarange.

For more on the microwave oven, click here.

MOBILE
calder fakeMobiles are airy, hanging sculptures that move with the wind. Alexander Calder (1898-1976), an American sculptor, invented the mobile in the early 20th century. His mobiles eventually became famous worldwide.

For more information on Calder and his art, click here.

hot-air balloonMONTGOLFIER BROTHERS
Joseph (1740-1810) and Jacques Etienne (1745-1799) Montgolfier were two French bothers from Vidalon-les-Annonay, near Lyons, who made the first successful hot-air balloon. Their first balloon was launched in December, 1782, and ascended to an altitude of 985 ft (300 m). This type of hot-air balloon was called the Montgolfiére; it was made of paper and used air heated by burning wool and moist straw. The first passengers in a hot-air balloon were a rooster, a sheep, and a duck, whom the Montgolfier brothers sent up to an altitude of 1,640 ft (500 m) on September 19, 1783 (the trip lasted for 8 minutes); the animals survived the landing. This event was observed by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France.
MOORE, EDWIN
The push pin ("a thumbtack with an elongated handle that makes it easier to put in and remove") was invented by the Pennsylvanian inventor Edwin Moore in 1900. Moore started a company producing these useful pins in 1900. After years of growing, his company incorporated on July 19, 1904, and was called the "Moore Push-Pin Company." The company 1912 through 1977, the Company was located in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

MORGAN, GARRETT
MorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963), was an African-American inventor and businessman. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal. He also developed the gas mask (and many other inventions). Morgan used his gas mask (patent No. 1,090,936, 1914) to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine. Soon after, Morgan was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.

For more information on Morgan, click here.

MORSE, SAMUEL F. B.
radioSamuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) was an American inventor and painter. After a successful career painting in oils (first painting historical scenes and then portraits), Morse built the first American telegraph around 1835 (the telegraph was also being developed independently in Europe).

A telegraph sends electrical signals over a long distance, through wires. In 1830, Joseph Henry (1797-1878) made the first long-distance telegraphic device - he sent an electric current for over a mile on wire that activated an electromagnet, causing a bell to ring.

Morse patented a working telegraph machine in 1837, with help from his business partners Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail. Morse used a dots-and-spaces code for the letters of the alphabet and the numbers (Morse Code was later improved to use dots, dashes and spaces: for example E is dot, T is dash, A is dot-dash, N is dash-dot, O is dash-dash-dash, I is dot-dot, S is dot-dot-dot, etc.). By 1838, Morse could send 10 words per minute. Congress provided funds for building a telegraph line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, in 1843. Morse sent the first telegraphic message (from Washington D.C. to Baltimore) on May 24, 1844; the message was: "What hath God wrought?" The telegraph revolutionized long-distance communications.

radioMOTORCYCLE
The earliest motorcycle was a coal-powered, two-cylinder, steam-driven motorcycle that was developed in 1867 by the American inventor Sylvester Howard Roper. A gas-powered motorcycle was invented by the German inventor Gottlieb Daimler in 1885. His mostly wooden motorcycle had iron-banded wheels with wooden spokes. This bone-crunching vehicle was powered by a single-cylinder engine.
MULDOON, WILLIAM
The medicine ball is a weighed ball used in strength training; medicine balls range from 2 to 60 pounds in weight. The medicine ball was invented by William "Iron Duke" Muldoon, a nineteenth-century wrestling champion and boxing trainer.

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African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada
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