Celebrating Inventor’s Month: How Historical Inventions Help the American Red Cross Better Serve You

By Jayme Quick, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

This month is “Inventors’ Month,” a time to ignite creativity in our future inventors and to recognize all of the inventors who have helped improve life as we know it. Here are just a few of the innovators whose discoveries have helped improve Red Cross services:

  1. Karl Landsteiner In 1909, Landsteiner became the first person to classify blood types into groups (O, A, B and AB) and to explain the consequences of people receiving blood donations from mismatched groups. His discovery led to the first successful blood transfusion and helped develop the modern system of blood donation, such as the one operated by the American Red Cross.
  2. James Elam and Peter Safar – Anesthesiologists James Elam and Peter Safar met by chance in the late 1950s and immediately began collaborating. By 1957, they had developed a new medical technique – cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Their instructional methods for CPR soon gained popularity in the medical community and have been used ever since.
  3. Robert C. Miller and E. J. Fawbush – At Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma in 1948, Miller and Fawbush took a risk and issued the first-ever tornado forecast, after observing similar weather patterns to what had taken place days earlier, when a severe tornado had caused significant damage in the area. Their observations – and the forecast – led to unprecedented developments in tornado prediction, which are now used by meterologists and the Red Cross community to help educate and prepare citizens. These predictions also help Red Cross volunteers prepare for disaster response in the hours before a tornado strikes.
  4. Lewis Ury – Though Thomas Edison came up with the basic electrical components for batteries in 1901, it was Canadian Lewis Ury, who worked in the research laboratory of Eveready Battery Company, who created the modern alkaline battery as we know it. Batteries play a vital role in both the Red Cross educational and disaster relief services, as they are needed for residential smoke detectors, emergency flash lights and weather radios. Battery-operated flashlights and power packs are sometimes the only means for power in areas struck by tornadoes, flooding and other natural disasters.
  5. Martin Cooper – American engineer Martin “Marty” Cooper is credited as the inventor of the cell phone. Cooper, a former employee of Motorola, conceived the idea of, and led the development team for, the first handheld mobile phone in 1983. Thanks to Cooper’s innovation, more people stay in touch during emergencies than ever before, citizens can receive immediate notification of emergencies and preparedness tips (through the Red Cross mobile apps) and Red Cross employees and volunteers can more efficiently coordinate disaster response whenever, and wherever, it’s needed.

Everyone remembers the famous inventors, like Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell. But these and other other lesser-known inventors’ ideas continue to help the American Red Cross better serve communities across the nation. So to them, we say: Thank You and Happy Inventor’s Month!

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