The Amateur Inventors Quiz

By: Alison Cooper

The Amateur Inventors Quiz
Image: © Bettmann/CORBIS

About This Quiz

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but sometimes the impetus is just a really weird idea. Can you match these amateur inventors to their inventions? Take this quiz to find out.
Which extremely prolific amateur inventor was also known as "the first American"?
George Washington
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin came up with an amazing variety of useful products, from bifocals to the rocking chair.
Thomas Jefferson

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How many patents did Benjamin Franklin hold?
none
Franklin somehow became one of the richest men in the colonies without having patented any of his inventions. His policy was "as we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own … freely and gladly."
10
421

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This is NOT a Benjamin Franklin invention.
swim fins
harpsichord
Franklin did invent a musical instrument, but it wasn't the harpsichord — it was the armonica, which has not withstood the test of time.
odometer

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Franklin designed the first version of this coin.
penny
"A penny saved is a penny earned." Franklin designed the "Fugio cent" in 1787, which had the inscription "mind your own business." Kind of wish that one were still around …
nickel
dime

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What did Franklin invent to help when his brother had kidney stones?
catheter
Franklin helped his brother out by coming up with a flexible, hinged metal catheter. It still sounds horrible but a good sight better than an inflexible metal catheter.
stethoscope
aspirin

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The invention of air conditioning is often attributed to Franklin because of his fondness for this activity.
putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan
taking ice baths
opening the windows
Franklin enjoyed taking "air baths," or stripping down and opening a window to take in the fresh air. At the time, people were so afraid of drafts they were reluctant to open windows, so this was a pretty daring activity — but not exactly the invention of air conditioning.

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Which inventor got his start when he began swimming after being injured in a car accident?
Nikola Tesla
Jacques Cousteau
Jacques Cousteau's military career was derailed by a debilitating car accident. He started swimming and eventually invented underwater breathing apparatuses and underwater cameras.
Bill Gates

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What was the name of the underwater house Cousteau developed in the '60s?
Pradit
Atlantique
Conshelf
Two "oceanauts" lived in Conshelf for a week.

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How old was Louis Braille when he started developing braille?
12
Braille developed his language for the blind over three years, starting when he was only 12.
18
22

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This 19th-century inventor was a traveling portrait painter before he came up with his signature creation.
Thomas Edison
Samuel Morse
Samuel Morse had dreams of being a famous artist, but he had to make do with inventing his own communications code.
James Watt

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Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the traffic light and military gas mask, got his start by tinkering with this device.
phonograph
telegraph machine
sewing machine
Morgan started out by making some successful changes to the sewing machine.

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The self-taught Leonardo da Vinci was basically the house inventor for this powerful Italian family.
the Sforzas
Da Vinci wrote Ludovico Sforza an unsolicited, illustrated letter detailing his engineering skills and was employed by the family for 17 years.
the Medicis
the Borgias

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Da Vinci's sketch for an armored tank had one fatal flaw that some believe was intentional. What was it?
It didn't have a steering mechanism.
The wheels didn't turn.
The gears didn't work.
It wasn't possible to build the tank with 15th-century technology, but in any case the gears were reversed. Some think da Vinci, a pacifist, did that purposefully.

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Which early movie actress was also an inventor?
Lillian Gish
Jean Harlow
Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr co-invented (with George Antheil) the "secret communications system," a method of switching radio frequencies to make it hard for enemies to decode messages.

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What's the modern name for the secret communications system?
spread-spectrum technology
Lamarr and Antheil developed spread-spectrum technology for use against the Nazis, but it wasn't used until the Cuban missile crisis.
radio frequency propagation
amplitude modulation signaling

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What was the occupation of Lamarr's co-inventor?
composer
George Antheil was an avant-garde composer.
military engineer
chef

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Which inventor was sometimes called the "black Edison"?
Garrett Morgan
George Washington Carver
Granville Woods
Communications inventor Granville Woods and Thomas Edison had some patent disputes, and Edison also asked Woods to be his partner at one point.

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Which Marx brothers were also amateur inventors?
Chico and Harpo
Gummo and Zeppo
Gummo and Zeppo weren't in the family vaudeville act for long. After getting out of show business, they both held patents: Gummo for a packing rack and Zeppo for a heart-rate monitor.
Groucho and Dummo

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Amateur inventor Lonnie G. Johnson had his biggest success with a toy originally called the Power Drencher, now known as the …
Slip'N Slide
Super Soaker
The Power Drencher didn't do very well, but the Super Soaker is one of the best-selling toys ever.
Wet Willie

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The 2015 film "Joy" was partly based on the life of inventor Joy Mangano. Which of these choices is NOT a Joy Mangano invention?
My Little Steamer
Huggable Hangers
Snuggie
Joy Mangano has invented more than 100 products, but the Snuggie isn't one of them.

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Which '60s movie star held a patent for car bucket seats?
Omar Sharif
Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen developed bucket-seat inserts that helped out in the filming of some of his car-chase scenes.
James Dean

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Which famous author held a patent for adjustable garment straps?
John Steinbeck
Charles Dickens
Mark Twain
Who knew Mark Twain had such an interest in ladies' undergarments?

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Who were the two men who claimed to have accidentally (and separately) invented Silly Putty?
James Wright and Earl Warrick
James Wright, a scientist at General Electric, and Earl Warrick, who worked at Dow Corning, both claimed to have discovered Silly Putty while trying to find a rubber alternative during World War II.
Daniel Schreiner and Curtis Joyner
Brian Higgins and Ole Kirk Christiansen

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Which famous guitar player does NOT hold a U.S. patent?
Eddie Van Halen
Prince
Eric Clapton
As far as we know, Clapton is not an inventor. Eddie Van Halen and Prince, on the other hand, have both patented guitar-related devices. Van Halen's is for a support that helps him with his solos, and Prince's is for a customized keytar. Yes, keytar. Look it up.

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After John Landis Mason invented the jar that bears his name, he also came up with a useful improvement to this kitchen item.
salt shaker
In the vein of the Mason jar, Mason also invented the screw-top salt shaker.
frying pan
tea kettle

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Inventing was a side gig for Paul Winchell, who patented the first artificial heart. What was his main job?
ventriloquist
Winchell started out as a ventriloquist and would go on to provide the voices for Tigger in "Winnie the Pooh" and Gargamel in "The Smurfs."
plumber
marketing executive

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What did Paul Brown invent in 1991 that made him $13 million in just four years?
smart pill
upside-down squeeze bottle
Paul Brown made ketchup-pouring a whole lot easier, and he made $13 million when he sold his company in 1995.
computer mouse

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Which one-named hunk has an unreleased fat-burning drink?
Yanni
Fabio
Fabio has had an application pending for a diet drink since 2011. As far as we know, it hasn't hit the market yet …
Usher

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What was the profession of Sylvan Goldman, who invented the shopping cart?
pianist
automotive engineer
supermarket owner
Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct one. Goldman obviously invented the cart to fill a pressing need.

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Sara Blakely was nearly broke when she came up with this invention, which made her a billionaire.
Spanx
Blakely launched Spanx in 2000 on a shoestring and is now one of the richest people in the world.
Pillow Pets
the Snuggie

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You Got:
/30
© Bettmann/CORBIS

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