Thursday, February 17, 2011
Lonnie G. Johnson
Lonnie G. Johnson was born on October 6th 1949 in Mobile, Alabama to a civilian driver father and homemaker mother. His father played a big part in his early inventions by showing him how to repair things and encouraging him and his brothers to create their own toys. A couple of his early inventions included creating a go-cart out of a lawn mower and other household items, and experiment with pyro techniques in his kitchen. By the time he got to high school he took part in a national science competition sponsored by U of Alabama. He showed a robot made form junkyard scraps named “Linex”, and placed first in the competition and entered Tuskeegee University on a mathematics scholarship. During college there he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and went on to receive a Master’s in Nuclear Engineering.
Upon graduating he took a position at the Savannah River National Laboratory, conducting thermal analysis on plutonium spheres. In about 1982 he worked developing a heat pump that would circulate water by taking some tubing found in his basement. He then discovered that the strong stream that came out of the tubing could make a great water gun. After thinking this he set out to develop a pressurized water gun that would be safe enough for children to play with. When he finally made a prototype that he was pleased with, he and his partner, Bruce D’Andrade, began marketing it and securing a patent. After securing the patent, the next task was to see if anyone would manufacture his invention. Larami Corporation in New York took in the invention, and the Super Soaker was put on shelves in 1989. By 1990, his toy was outselling Nintendo as the number one selling toy in America.
Shortly after that, Johnson went on his own and received a contract by NASA to develop a water based cooling system that was 25 percent more efficient than conventional heat pumps and air conditioners.
He has since won numerous awards, and was inducted into the Hasbro Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2000. He made it possible for other inventors to come out to show their product, and have it be more than successful, and also to develop into more than there invention. I would personally like to thank him for making my childhood a bit more interesting and pushing my tomboy limits.