9 Lesser-Known Inventions from Great Inventors in History

Here are some interesting inventions you might not have known that came from the minds of some of the world's greatest inventors.
Christopher McFadden

Many inventors, as it turns out, are not one-hit wonders. Several of them, even the most famous, have a litany of other, sadly lesser-known, great inventions to their name.

Here are but a few of them. 

What are some of the lesser-known inventions from some of the greatest ever inventors?

So, without further ado here are some of the lesser-known inventions from great inventors. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. Edison's "Universal Stock Ticker" was one of his first-ever inventions

Thomas Edison, best known for founding the General Electric Corporation and creating the first commercially viable incandescent lightbulbs, but he was also a very prolific inventor in his own right.

Thomas Alva Edison, to give him his full name, actually has over 1,000 patents to his name, and was a very astute businessman to boot.


What is more is that he was a self-made man who, in no small part, helped push forward the American Industrial Revolution. But one of his lesser-known inventions was the Universal Stock Printer.

This was an amazing invention for its day that was able to synchronize a number of stock ticker transactions at a time. This invention made him a tidy sum of money when the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company bought the rights to it for $40,000

2. Alexander Graham Bell appeared to have a fascination with kites

Alexander Graham Bell, best know for his invention of the early telephone, has many other interesting inventions to his name. Perhaps chief among them, and lesser-known, were his tetrahedral kites. 

He became obsessed with the idea of using kites to be able to carry a man into the air. By building his kites out of tetrahedrons, he found a way to greatly increase the surface area of the kite while also keeping its weight down to a minimum.

He believed so much in his tetrahedral kites that he was convinced that they would be the future of human flight and not airplanes. 

3. Leonardo Da Vinci appears to have invented the SCUBA suit

Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the world's most prolific minds of all time. Famed for his great works of art, and imaginative inventions, most people aren't aware that he actually developed a concept for a form of SCUBA suit.

During the turn of the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire was putting pressure on Venice's Republic with its, then, very powerful fleet. To combat that, Da Vinci devised a kind of suit that could, in theory, allow Venetian soldiers to swim underneath Ottoman ships and wreak havoc to their hulls without being seen. 

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4. Benjamin Franklin actually invented an amazing musical instrument

Benjamin Franklin is another of the world's most famous inventors. Famed for creating the first bifocals, and helping draft the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, he also found time to invent an entire way of making music

Called the "Glass Armonica", this is one of the strangest, yet most satisfying musical instruments to play and hear. Many great composers, like Beethoven and Mozart, even wrote some music specifically for it. 

5. Clarence Birdseye actually also invented the harpoon gun

You may not have heard of Clarence Birdseye, but you will certainly have heard of his company -- Birds Eye. Back in the 20s he successfully developed a method of freezing, packing, and distributing seafood all around the world.

But what is lesser known about the man behind Birdseye is the fact that he also invented the harpoon gun to tag whales. The device was made of aluminum and rubber, the mechanical device had very low recoil and was designed to tag whales for scientific studies. 

6. Henry Ford and George Washington Carver devised a car that could run on soybeans

Better known for the cars that still carry his name, Henry Ford was another prolific inventor. George Washington Carver was himself an accomplished tinkerer who is best known as the "Peanut Man" for his many applications for peanuts including dyes. plastics and even a form of gasoline. 

The two men worked together for several years to devise a novel use of soybeans -- fuelling combustion engines. The combination of Ford's genius with engines and Carver's significant expertise with novel uses of crops was a dream made in heaven. 

The new car was debuted in Michigan in the early-1940s, but it never really gained any market attention. 

7. Hiram Maxim also developed an amazing fairground ride

Hiram Maxim, the man behind the all-powerful "Maxim Gun" of the battlefields of WW1, is another inventor with other interesting creations. After the amazing success, depending on how you look at it, of his creation of the first truly automatic machine gun, he turned his attention to aeronautics.

He created a swing ride that debuted at the Earl's Court Exhibition in 1904. Called the "Sir Hiram Maxim Captive Flying Machines", the amusement ride used rocket-shaped cars instead of chairs like its contemporaries. 

It was a massive success. 

After being rebuffed over safety concerns to add controllable rudders and airfoils, he washed his hands off of it. You can still find some replicas of this famous ride at amusement parks in the UK today. 

8. John Logie Baird invented some new socks

The inventor of the very first television, John Logie Baird was another famous inventor who developed some other lesser-known things. While most of his later career was spent refining his TV-technology, his earlier work had some very interesting concepts.

One example was a new kind of sock. After learning of the huge problems soldiers were facing on the frontline with trench foot, he decided to see if he could do anything about it.

These socks were designed to be highly absorbent and were coated in borax --  a potent antiseptic. Called the "Baird Undersock", they would be worn underneath regular army socks and proved pretty successful.

9. Eugene Rimmel also accidentally invented a wonderful toilet cleaner

lesser-known inventions rimmel
Source: Bodleian Library/Wikimedia Commons

The man behind the cosmetics company that still bears his name today, Rimmel, is best known for creating the very first non-toxic mascara. But he also inadvertently invented a very effective toilet cleaner.

One of his first products now known as "toilet vinegar" was a mixture of oils, white vinegar, lavender extract, and tincture of benzoin. He had intended it to be used as a moisturizer or shampoo but consumers soon discovered it was great at removing stubborn stains from toilets. 

Rimmel didn't appear to mind, and soon changed his company's marketing strategy to suit.

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