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A guide to help ASU students find patent information including what is a patent, the different sections of a patent, how to do a prior art search, where to find statistics and other sources of patent information.

Look Who Has a Patent!


US #5525452
Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion


Diagrams from Michael Jackson's patent
Michael J. Jackson

Michael L. Bush
Dennis Tompkins


US #4753647
Infant Garment
Diagram from Jamie Lee Curtis' patent

Jamie L. Curtis

US #4656917
Musical Instrument Support

Diagram from Eddie Van Halen's patent

Edward L. Van Halen

Famous Patents, Inventors, and Other Interesting Stuff

These books and websites are generally just listings without details. Tables are useful for finding quickly "who did what", while timelines place the invention within a historical context. Some items listed under Biographies and Descriptions contain timelines. Items are international in scope unless noted otherwise.

For more information about an inventor and/or an invention, see these books and websites. All items are international in scope unless stated otherwise.

  • National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Short biographies for over 500 individuals who have been inducted in the Hall of Fame.  Although "national" is in the name, many of these individuals either were born and/or resided in other countries.  What they have in common are technological advancement benefiting the U.S. and U.S. Patent holdings.  The database can be searched by Category (last name,  year inducted, academic institution, company, state/province, country) or Keyword.  
  • Inventor Archive (Lemelson-MIT)
    Biographical profiles of great inventors, both historical and more recent.  
  • Inventor Biography (Great Idean Finder) 
    Many of the biographies include links to other sources of information (books, websites) about the inventor. 


  • African American Inventors (Smithsonian)
    A selected annotated bibliography on African American inventors. Only print material is listed.
  • Inventors and Inventions (Library of Congress)
    Digital collections of famous inventors or inventions; the content of each collection varies but may include newspaper and journal articles, images, personal documents, images and other types of material.
  • Women of Invention (Library of Congress, Science Reference Guide)
    List of books and websites about women inventors. 



  • Ancient Discoveries
    modern world likes to think of itself as innovative but the classical world had already invented some of the things that were thought to be breakthroughs. From Heron of Alexandria and the invention of the first steam engine, to the tomb of a Roman surgeon that reveals exquisite tools used to perform eye surgery for the removal of cataracts, this six-part series explores a world more complex and more contemporary than we could ever imagine. 6-part series, 50 minutes each.
  • The Genius of Invention: Ideas That Changed the World 
    12 inventions are explored to show how they have changed the way we live our lives. They explain how these inventions came about—from sparks of genius to steady incremental improvements hammered out in workshops—and separate myth from reality in the lives of the great inventors. The four-part series looks at communications, power, speed and the visual image.  A BBC Production. 4-part series, 50 minutes each.
  • Quirky Science
    This 13-part series explores where science went awry and led to new discoveries and inventions. Each episode shows some past moments in science may seem crazy to us today, they made perfect sense at the time—and vice versa! It also shows how these moments led either to a breakthrough in understanding or to a new product. 13-part series, 25 minutes each.

Fun & Games


Funny Patents

*Not kept up-to-date.




Patent No. 135,089
Sylvanus Cox & William W. Fanning
School Desk
January 21, 1873
(SI neg. 86-6164)


From 1790 until 1880, the USPTO required a small-scaled model of the invention be submitted along with the patent application.  The 1836 fire in the Patent Office destroyed all the models and much of the patent documentation; a restoration project, in place through 1849, replaced some of this material.   A second fire in 1877 destroyed almost 40% of the model collection existing at that time.   

Originally the Patent Office kept these models on display but because of space restrictions parts of the collection continually had to be put in storage; by the end of 1893 the complete collection was crated and no longer available to the public.  The Smithsonian selected some models for its American History Collection, some were given away to universities, museums, or inventor's descendants and, starting in 1926, the remainder was auctioned off. (1)

The two biggest collections of U.S. patent models are the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (1) and private collector, Alan Rothschild (2).  


(1) Janssen, Barbara Suit.  Patent Models Index: A Guide to the Collections of the National Muesum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.   Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2010.  Smithsonian Contributions to History and Technology, no. 54. 
Information about U.S. Patent models and photographs of the two models displayed on this page are from this index. 

(2) Rothschild Petersen Patent Model Museum




 Patent No. 118,435
George P. Clarke
Naturally Creeping Baby Dolls
August 29, 1871
(SI neg. 86-6160) 

Look Who Has a Patent!

US #121992
Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments
Diagrams from Samuel Clemens' patent

Samuel Clemens

US #6469
Bouying Vessels Over Shoals

Diagram from Abraham Lincoln's patent

Abraham Lincoln
Book: Lincoln, the Inventor

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