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Who are the 25 Greatest Innovators in N.J. History? Start with Einstein, Edison and Waksman

The State's Greatest Thinkers Developed the Light Bulb and TV;
Walked on the Moon; Conquered Diseases; Won Women the Right to Vote;
Served in Gen. Washington's Army and Designed a Comfortable Bra

Albert Einstein, the greatest thinker of the 20th century who revolutionized the way we look at the universe, was named the top innovator in New Jersey history, in an exclusive list revealed Oct. 27, by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and NJBIZ newspaper. Coming in at No. 2 was Thomas A. Edison, whose countless inventions are highlighted by the light bulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera.

"New Jersey has been home to an incredible number of innovators," said Ray Zardetto, vice president of communications at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, who headed the team that developed the Top 25 list. "Einstein and Edison are most prominent. Their worldwide fame attracted the best minds to come to New Jersey to live and work. These protégés landed at New Jersey universities and R&D institutions helping turn the Garden State into an innovation powerhouse."

The top five is rounded out by Selman Waksman (No. 3), the Rutgers professor whose work to create new antibiotics made him a disease conqueror; the Bell Labs team of William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain (No. 4), who invented the transistor, the brain of modern electronics; and Lyman Spitzer (No. 5), the visionary physicist who founded the world-renowned Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and conceived of space-based telescopes that allow astronomers to see farther and clearer into the universe than ever before.

The top five names on the list were revealed at a gala at the Palace at Somerset Park on Oct. 27 celebrating the Garden State's Jersey's 350th anniversary. "This list is meant to salute New Jersey for its broad history of innovation, and we hope it will generate debates over who are truly the greatest thinkers in New Jersey history," said Thomas Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

How the List was Developed

The list was developed by a team at the N.J. Chamber of Commerce and NJBIZ newspaper. It includes innovators born in New Jersey or those who made significant progress while working in the state and whose ideas forever changed the business world and our lives.

The team chose Einstein as No. 1 because "he is without a doubt one of the most unique and incredible men in history, and his name is synonymous with genius," Zardetto said. "His insights into and theories on the workings of the universe took the human mind where it had never been before, and his conclusions so revolutionary, physicists today still marvel at his accomplishments." In its review of the 20th Century, Time Magazine named Einstein the Person of the Century and the greatest mind of the century.

Of the names on the Top 25 list, three are still alive - Astronaut Buzz Aldrin (No. 7), of Montclair, who walked on the moon and pioneered methods to move in space; Pfizer researcher Lloyd Conover (No. 16), who advanced antibiotics; and John J. Mooney (No. 17), the chemical engineer from Patterson whose work to develop the first three-way catalytic converter eliminated the toxic tailpipe.

The Women on the List

Five of the Top 25 are women, including Beatrice Alice Hicks (No. 10), the pioneering engineer who shattered the glass ceiling for women in her field; Alice Paul (No. 15), whose innovative brand of activism won women the right to vote; Ida Cohen Rosenthal (No. 19), co-founder of the intimate apparel company Maidenform, whose innovation involved designing brassiere's that conformed to women's body shapes; Alice Parker (No. 20), the African-American woman from Morristown who patented the home heating system in 1919, and gave birth to the thermostat and the forced air furnaces in most homes today; and Elizabeth Coleman White (No. 24), the Blueberry Queen, who turned blueberries from a wild fruit into a $40 million cash crop by devising new varieties of blueberries that could be cultivated.

"The personal stories of many of the names on the list are incredibly fascinating," Zardetto said, "and they are well worth remembering and honoring."

There's John von Neumann (No. 8), who built a computer in the 1940s that remains the blueprint for modern computers; There's Vladimir Zworykin (No. 11), who turned century-old dream of sending moving images over a wire into TV. There is Allen DuMont (No. 12), who invented the first commercial television in his Cedar Grove lab, and even established the DuMont Television Network, the nation's first-ever TV network. There's John Dorrance (No. 14), who invented condensed soup and transformed Campbell Soup into an empire There is Claude Shannon (No. 21), "Father of the Information Age," who proposed using the numerals "0" and "1" to formulate and transmit data - a binary breakthrough.

New Jersey's 'First Dude'

And last, but certainly not least, is Perth Amboy native John Stevens (No. 13), who we like to think of as New Jersey's "First Dude." He was a captain in George Washington's Revolutionary War Army; N.J.'s first treasurer in 1776; he was granted the patent for the steam engine that earned him the nickname "Father of American Railroads;" and he designed the first steamship to navigate the open ocean. Stevens bequeathed his Castle Point estate to his sons and they in turn bequeathed it to become "an institute of learning." Today it is the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken which enrolls over 5,000 students from all over the world and produced a couple of Nobel Prize winners: graduate Frederick Reines in physics (1995) and faculty member Irving Langmuir (1932) in chemistry.


The Dream Team

The All-time Top 25 Innovators in New Jersey History

  1. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    Nobel Laureate named "The Greatest Mind of the 20th Century"
  2. Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
    Most prolific inventor in history. Light bulb, telegraph, motion picture camera
  3. Selman Waksman (1888-1973)
    Disease conquering Nobel Laureate called the "The Father of Antibiotics"
  4. John Bardeen (1908-1991), William Brattain (1902-1987), William Shockley (1910-1989)
    Nobel Laureates invented the transistor, the brain of modern electronics
  5. Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997)
    Visionary physicist, founder of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab
  6. David Sarnoff (1891-1971)
    Father of Broadcasting, ran RCA and NBC, helped develop TV and radio
  7. Buzz Aldrin (Born 1930, 84 years old)
    Pioneered working in space and walked on the moon
  8. John von Neumann (1903-1957)
    Nobel Laureate, built computers in '40s that remain the blueprint for modern computers
  9. Robert Wood Johnson (1893-1968)
    Transformed Johnson & Johnson into a global powerhouse
  10. Beatrice Alice Hicks (1919-1979)
    Pioneering engineer, shattered the glass ceiling for women in this field
  11. Vladimir Zworykin (1888-1982)
    Turned century-old dream of sending moving images over a wire into reality of TV
  12. Allen DuMont (1901-1965)
    Developed the first commercially-sold television sets
  13. John Stevens
    (1749-1838) Granted patent for the steam engine, known as "Father of American Railroads"
  14. John Dorrance (1873-1930)
    Invented condensed soup, transformed Campbell Soup into an empire
  15. Alice Paul (1885-1977)
    Her unique brand of activism won women equal rights, like the right to vote
  16. Lloyd Conover (Born in 1923, 91 years old)
    Developed chemical process leading to new disease-fighting antibiotics
  17. John J. Mooney (Born in 1929, 85 years old)
    Devised the 3-way catalytic converter, forever ending the "toxic tailpipe"
  18. Seth Boyden (1788-1870)
    The most prolific U.S. inventor before Thomas Edison
  19. Ida Cohen Rosenthal (1886-1973)
    Transformed women's fashions, including the bra, igniting multi-billion dollar industry
  20. Alice H. Parker (Dates of birth and death unknown)
    Patented home heating system while working from her home in 1919
  21. Claude Shannon (1916-2001)
    Devised the "Rosetta Stone" of computer language leading to info age
  22. Wally Schirra (1923-2007)
    Trailblazing astronaut who was first to dock with another spacecraft
  23. John Roebling (1806-1869)
    Improved engineering design to make longer bridges possible
  24. Elizabeth Coleman White (1871-1954)
    Cultivated the blueberry into a $40 million dollar industry
  25. Donald Fletcher Holmes (1910-1980)
    Invented "do-it-all" polyurethane, the durable, flexible synthetic material


To read bios of the Top 25 innovators, click here.