The 2002 Class of Inductees

Updated May 8, 2019 | Infoplease Staff

Raymond Kurzweil, 1948–, KURZWEIL READING MACHINE. When entrepreneur Kurzweil introduced the Kurzweil Reading Machine in 1976, it was hailed as the most important advance in reading for the blind since Braille. The machine scans ordinary printed materials, which are then read aloud by computer. Its text-to-speech process was considered a landmark in the use of artificial intelligence, and has provided the basis for numerous information technologies since.

Nils Bohlin, 1920–, THREE-POINT SAFETY BELT. The now-standard three-point safety belt, with a strap for the upper body and a strap for the lower body joined at a single buckle, was developed by Swedish engineer Bohlin in 1962. A tireless advocate for seatbelt use, Bohlin is considered a force behind the seatbelt safety legislation that has been adopted in 49 states. Bohlin has been a safety engineer for Volvo since 1958.

Rangaswamy Srinivasan, 1929–, James Wynne, 1943–, and Samuel Blum, 1920–, EXCIMER EYE SURGERY. IBM researchers Srinivasan, Wynne, and Blum developed this technique used in LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) eye surgery, which has improved the eyesight of more than 5 million people and allowed many to give up their glasses and contact lenses. The procedure uses an ultraviolet excimer laser to reshape the cornea without damaging the surrounding tissue.

M. Stephen Heilman, 1933–, Alois Langer, 1945–, Morton Mower, 1933–, and Michel Mirowski, 1924–1990, IMPLANTABLE DEFIBRILLATOR. This team of doctors developed the implantable defibrillator, an internal electronic device that continuously monitors and regulates heart rhythms. By correcting irregular rhythms it helps ensure that sufficient blood is pumped through the heart to the body and brain, thus preventing cardiac arrest. Since its first successful use in 1980 more than 300,000 people worldwide have received an implantable defibrillator, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

Rodney Bagley, 1934–, Irwin Lachman, 1930–, and Ronald Lewis, 1936–, CERAMIC SUBSTRATE FOR CATALYTIC CONVERTORS. In response to the Clean Air Act of 1970, engineers Bagley and Lachman and geologist Lewis, all of Corning Glass, created a ceramic substrate for use in automotive technology that converts 95% of exhaust pollutants into water vapor and carbon dioxide. Thirty years later, their invention is credited with reducing automotive pollutants by more than 3 billion tons worldwide. Ceramic substrate technology is now used by every automotive manufacturer in the world.

Felix Hoffmann, 1868–1946, ASPIRIN. Hoffman, a young German chemist, sought to relieve his father's arthritis pain with a chemical derivative of salicylic acid, a natural painkiller obtained from willow bark. Convinced of its promise, Hoffman urged Germany's Bayer Company to sell the drug, which was marketed under the name Aspirin. Aspirin is one of the world's most widely used painkillers and has been notably effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

John Presper Eckert, Jr., 1919–1995, and John Mauchly, 1907–1980, ENIAC DATA TRANSLATING DEVICE. Engineers Eckert and Mauchly invented ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), the first multipurpose computer, whose completion in 1945 heralded the dawn of the electronic era and provided a prototype for later computers. Although far less powerful than handheld calculators today, in its time ENIAC set speed records with more than 5,000 additions per second. ENIAC weighed about 30 tons, filled an 1,800-square-foot room, and included 6,000 manual switches.

Henry Bessemer, 1813–1898, BESSEMER STEEL PROCESS. In 1855 Bessemer, an English industrialist, patented the “Bessemer converter,” an early blast furnace that allowed quick and cheap production of steel in larger amounts than ever before. Previously, steel production had been a laborious process requiring skilled workers. By making possible the mass manufacture of steel, the Bessemer Process transformed production of firearms and railways and helped fuel the Industrial Revolution.

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