The United States of America has long been a focal point of hope and a destination for immigrants migrating to its shores from other countries pursuing the promise of life, freedom and prosperity. For some, the desire to succeed in and contribute to society has inevitably spawned some of the most innovative discoveries and inventions in history. One survey of college graduates found that immigrants hold patents at “double the native rate.” This was attributed to an outsized immigrant share of science and engineering degrees. Across various business, health, and technological segments, inventions from immigrants have had a profound impact on communities across the U.S. and the world over.
From Invention to Big Business
Many well-known companies and lucrative businesses originated from an invention by immigrants. AT&T, one of the pre-eminent telephone providers in the world can trace its beginning back to 1875, when Alexander Graham Bell, an immigrant from Scotland, invented and patented the telephone. The first electric blender was invented by Stephen Poplawski, a Polish immigrant. As consumers have sought a healthier lifestyle by natural juicing, blender sales have skyrocketed. As of May 2013, sales for blenders had reached $784 million. In addition, the first video game console was invented by Ralph Baer, a German immigrant. Today, the video game industry is worth $66 billion. This prolific creation of business has invariably facilitated job growth and generated millions of dollars in both revenue and manufacturing.
Medications and several medical supplies/equipment have been invented by immigrants. The antidepressant, Prozac was formulated by Klaus Schmiegel, who is an immigrant from Germany. David Ho, an AIDS researcher born in Taiwan, was the lead researcher who introduced the administering of protease inhibitors in caring for HIV-infected individuals. This practice is commonly known as the “cocktail therapy” of drugs used in the war against HIV/AIDS. The artificial heart, LASIK eye surgery and implantable cardioverter defibrillator were all developed by immigrants. These discoveries allow millions of people around the world to live healthy and high-functioning lives that may not have been possible previously.
Internet and Software Sectors
The Internet has been an important tool used to promote commerce, interaction between peer groups and the proliferation of news and information. Central to this exchange has been the creation of Google and its innovative web search algorithm which was co-invented by Sergey Brin, a Russian immigrant. Currently, Google is the most visited site in the world. Charles Simonyi, a Hungarian immigrant, was the lead architect behind Microsoft Word and Excel, two of the most helpful and utilized computer software programs in the world. He also managed the development of Microsoft Office's most valuable products. Today, it is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the world use Microsoft Office.
Common Use Innovation
Several household items American use every day were invented by immigrants. Gabriel Kazanjian, an Armenian American, invented the first handheld hairdryer. Samar Basu created the technology which allows lithium ion batteries to be charged numerous times, commonly known as rechargeable batteries. This is a common item universally used for digital and electronic devices. Levi Strauss, synonymous with the creation of blue jeans, was born in Bavaria. Initially, they were formulated so that gold miners could work in harsh conditions with pants that could withstand them. People around the world who view blue jeans as American staples might be surprised to learn that they were invented by a newcomer to this country.
- National Bureau of Economic Research: How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?
- Inc.com: Why Entrepreneurship Needs Immigrants
- Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: The Economic Case for Welcoming Immigrant Entrepreneurs
- Academy of Achievement: David Ho Biography
- The History of AT&T
- Levi Strauss and Co: The Invention of the Blue Jean
- Partnership for a New American Economy: A Day Without Immigrant Made Inventions
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