Boss Kettering: Innovation & the Golden Age of the Automobile Heather J. E. Simmons, JD, MLS University Libraries & College of Law, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Introduction Patenting & Licensing Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) Charles Franklin Kettering was affectionately nicknamed “Boss Ket” by the people who worked for him. A wellknown figure during his lifetime, Kettering is remembered today mostly for his funding of cancer research with General Motors colleague Alfred P. Sloane (Sloan Kettering Institute) and the university which bears his name, Kettering University, formerly General Motors Institute. Kettering is still remembered fondly by the staff of the GM R&D Center which he founded in 1920, where their highest award still bears his name. Courtesy of GM Media Archives Patent Highlights National Cash Register NCR The Evolution of an Idea (1904-1909) • Spring-loaded drawer: CASH REGISTER US1,137,061 (27 April 1915) 1908 Kettering’s original drawing of his concept for the electric starter Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company DELCO General Motors R&D Center (1920-1947) Original signed and witnessed drawing dated July 23rd 1908 Courtesy of Kettering University Archives Kettering & World War II National Inventors’ Council Director(1940-1947) A central clearing house to review concepts for inventions relating to the war effort and forward the most useful ideas on to the armed forces for their consideration. (1909-1920) • ENGINE STARTING, LIGHTING, AND IGNITION SYSTEM US1,171,055 (8 February 1916) A prolific inventor, Kettering was awarded 187 United States patents. His single most famous patent was US1,171,055, awarded for the electric car starter. • Ethyl Gasoline METHOD AND MEANS FOR USING LOWCOMPRESSION FUELS US1,635,216 (12 July 1927) •“Freon” REFRIGERATING APPARATUS US1,793,857 (24 February 1931) Controversy National Patent Planning Commission Chairman(1941-1945) Established by FDR, the NPPC came to an untimely end when President Truman directed the Secretary of Commerce to form a similar group. New Questions • Were any of the policies recommended by the NPPC ultimately adopted by The United States Patent & Trademark Office? • Was President Truman aware of the work of the NPPC in 1945 when he formed the Patent Survey Committee? FREON® Freon® is the trademarked name of a compound produced by DuPont for use as a refrigerant. Kettering claimed to have discovered it. While he does have several refrigeration patents, the actual patent does not list his name as an inventor: Recycled Technology What else can you power with a spring? • One of Charles Franklin Kettering’s first patents was a spring-loaded cash register drawer for NCR • He used this idea again for the file cabinet system he designed for his office at the GM R&D Center, now located at the Kettering University Archive • Electrified Cash Register: CASH REGISTER US1,144,418 (29 June 1915) Results: Unexpected Findings Conclusions Heat Transfer US1,833,847 (24 November 1931) Thomas Midgley, Jr., Albert L. Henne, and Robert R. McNary, Assignors to Frigidaire Corporation. Charles Franklin Kettering was an innovative and prolific inventor. He was also an influential figure in the development of United States patent policy during and following World War II. Unintended Consequences Acknowledgments Ethyl Gasoline Funded by a grant from the UIUC Library Research & Publications Committee. US Patent 1,171,055 • Press a button and the corresponding drawer pops open solved the problem of engine knock, but the tetraethyl lead additive causes air pollution. 1912 Freon® The electric starter made its debut on the Cadillac Roadster solved a problem in household refrigeration by replacing dangerous volatile compounds, but CFCs cause environmental problems with the ozone layer. Why is Grass Green? Courtesy of GM Media Archives Kettering’s solution to these environmental issues was to fund and perform research on the process of photosynthesis in an attempt to better understand how solar energy works. This research was performed at the Richard P. Scharchburg Archives at Kettering University in Flint Michigan, and would not have been possible without the assistance of Archivist David White.