When fame is the name game

You’ve heard of William Shakespeare, Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan. You probably also know the names of Henry Frank Phillips, Jack Foley and Dame Nellie Melba, even if you have no idea who they were. Some people achieve quiet fame by naming innovations that improve the quality of our lives.

American businessman Henry Frank Phillips (1889-1958) did not invent the screwdriver that bears his name. That honor went to John P. Thompson, who patented the recessed Phillips screw in 1932 and the screwdriver that turns it in 1933. Unable to interest manufacturers in his invention, however, Thompson sold the concept to Phillips, who tirelessly appealed to American manufacturers to adopt the new technology. General Motors signed on in 1936, opening the floodgates to wide industrial acceptance. It may be piggyback fame, but there’s a reason it’s not called the Thompson screwdriver.


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