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Who Invented Air Conditioning and Other Inventors We’re Grateful to

Ever wonder who invented air conditioning and other home items that make life easier?

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air conditioner outside of houseGSPhotography/Shutterstock

Air Conditioner

The air conditioner holds a special place among mechanical engineers, so much so that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers named it as one of the 10 greatest mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century. So who invented the air conditioner? Willis Carrier gets credited for creating the modern air conditioner back in 1902. Carrier went about trying to cool down a printing plant and came up with a system that sent air through coils filled with cold water.

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instructionsPublic Domain

First Flushing Toilet

Sir John Harington of Somerset, England, was a 16th-century author, poet and godson of Queen Elizabeth I, who temporarily banished him from her court for writing risqué stories. While in exile in 1596, his thoughts continued to dwell on unclean things, resulting in the invention of the first flushing toilet, which he called the “Ajax.”

With that large, straight discharge pipe, Harington’s toilet appears a lot less prone to clogging than today’s. Here are 12 things you should never flush down the toilet.

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sandpaperzcw/Shutterstock

Modern Sandpaper

Although sandpaper can be traced back as early as 13th-century China, a Springfield, Vermont, inventor made it commercially viable by inventing a process for manufacturing the tool in 1834.

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Toilet Paper

In 1857, entrepreneur Joseph Gayetty developed the first paper targeted specifically for use on the toilet. Surprisingly, his product didn’t catch on. He’d marketed his tissue as a hemorrhoids preventer, which didn’t have widespread appeal. Most consumers preferred wiping with catalogues, which they got for free. Just make sure you never flush any of these things down your toilet.

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light bulbsChampiofoto/Shutterstock

Light Bulb

With Menlo Park, New Jersey, the home to Thomas Edison’s lab, we can thank the Garden State for light bulbs, phonographs, and motion pictures. Check out these other bizarre things you never knew Thomas Edison invented.

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WD-40: 39 Failures, One Big SuccessFamily Handyman

WD-40: 39 Failures, One Big Success

In 1953, the Rocket Chemical Company of San Diego set out to create DIY inventions that could prevent rust on equipment in the aerospace industry. On the 40th try, it came up with WD-40 (Water Displacement, 40th attempt). It was first used by Convair to protect the outer skin of Atlas Missiles from rust and corrosion. In 1958, company founder Norm Larsen saw an opportunity to sell to the general public and introduced a retail version of WD-40 in aerosol cans. The public loved the product and still does. WD-40 can be found in four out of five homes in America, and the company currently manufactures more than 1 million cans of WD-40 per week. You already use WD-40 to loosen bolts and stop squeaking hinges, but did you know WD-40 could do these other amazing things around your house?

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Leatherman Multitool: Inspired By a ClunkerFamily Handyman

Leatherman Multitool: Inspired By a Clunker

While traveling abroad, Tim Leatherman carried an old Boy Scout knife. He used it for everything from slicing bread to fixing the unreliable car he was traveling around in. The knife was handy, but he kept wishing he had a pair of pliers, so when he got home he designed his first multi-tool. Tim cut pieces of cardboard to make a pattern for the prototype, which he built in his garage. He shopped the tool around to prospective manufacturers without success, so he decided to manufacture them himself. His first sales came through a mail order magazine. He'd hoped to sell 4,000 'Pocket Survival Tools' that first year, but ended up filling 30,000 orders. The Leatherman Tool Group was born. It currently makes more than a million tools each year in Portland, OR. Plus: 50 Awesome Gifts for DIYers Under $50

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Graco: A Chilly InspirationFamily Handyman

Graco: A Chilly Inspiration

Russell Gray figured there had to be a better way to lubricate a car on a cold Minnesota winter day. The freezing temperatures made hand-operated grease guns nearly impossible to use. So in 1926 he designed a grease gun powered by air pressure and sold it to service stations and others in the automotive industry. Gray Company Inc. quickly became a leader in the industrial fluid-handling business. The company produced its first paint pump in 1948 and developed the airless sprayer in 1957. This tool revolutionized exterior painting and made Graco a name familiar to every pro painter and many a DIYer. Today Graco makes equipment for a wide range of industries. Its products pump fluids into cars, apply foam insulation to walls and dispense composite resins into molds, they even pump tomato sauce onto pizzas. In need of your own Paint Sprayer? Check out our expert paint sprayer reviews.

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Weber Grills: Born from a BuoyFamily Handyman

Weber Grills: Born from a Buoy

The classic round Weber grill sort of looks like the bottom of a marine buoy. That's because the first Weber grill DIY inventions were made from the bottom of a marine buoy! George Stephen Sr. worked at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Chicago, which made buoys for the coast guard. In 1952, George had a brilliant idea: He cut the bottom off one of the buoys and added a vent and handle to the top and three legs to the bottom. His neighbors laughed at his contraption at first, but soon wanted one of their own. And so did the rest of the world! Weber grills, made in Illinois, are sold in more than 72 countries. It's no surprise that when most buyers think about getting a new grill they first consider what type of fuel they prefer. So check out our Grilling 101: All About Grill Fuels

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Black & Decker: First Portable Electric DrillFamily Handyman

Black & Decker: First Portable Electric Drill

In 1910, Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker opened a small machine shop in Baltimore. They began building machinery automated candy dippers, machines that made bottle caps and parts for other manufacturers. While sitting at Al Decker's kitchen table, the two men thought about a lighter and easier-to-use industrial drill. (A Colt automatic pistol lay on the table. Colt was a customer.) Legend has it, they both looked at the gun and had a 'eureka' moment. In 1917, they received a patent for the first 1/2-in. portable electric drill, equipped with a trigger and pistol grip, remarkably similar to the Colt. Factory workers loved the DIY inventions tool and often brought one home to use on their own houses. Black & Decker saw an opportunity and in 1946 introduced the world's first portable drill for consumers. They sold their millionth drill five years later. Make your drill do more than drill holes. These five drill attachments are problem solvers and timesavers. Plus, they will work with cordless or corded drills.