9 Texas Inventions We (Mostly) Couldn’t Live Without

9 Texas Inventions We (Mostly) Couldn’t Live Without

Our state has a long legacy of inventors. Here are just a few of the Texas innovations that you may have in your fridge, in your pocket, or even in your body.

Dr Pepper

Inventor: Charles Alderton
Waco, Texas ★ 1885

Charles Alderton was a pharmacist in Waco when he came up with the formula for Dr Pepper by mixing various syrups into a pleasing new creation. The owner of the pharmacy, Wade Morrison, reportedly named the beverage after the father of a girl he once loved. Previously marketed as the “King of Beverages,” Dr Pepper stands as the oldest major soft drink brand in the country. Today, you can visit a recreation of Alderton’s soda fountain at Waco’s Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute.

Improved Electrical Resistors For Pacemakers

Inventor: Otis Boykin
Dallas, Texas ★ 1950s-1960s

We can thank Otis Boykin for the reliable, low-cost resistors used today in countless devices, from computers to TVs to missiles. Born and raised in Dallas, Boykin patented his breakthrough inventions while in Chicago, but once a Texan, always a Texan. Perhaps the most notable use of his resistor was in the first implantable pacemaker devices—something you definitely want reliability in. Boykin earned a total of 25 US patents, with his other inventions including an anti-theft cash register and a chemical air filter.

Pumpable Nacho Cheese

Inventor: Frank Liberto
San Antonio, Texas ★ 1976

Frank Liberto earned the designation
“Father of Nachos” thanks to his creation of the gooey, pumpable cheese sauce now served by the gallon at theaters and stadiums across the globe. Liberto didn’t invent nachos—that honor belongs to Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya of Piedras Negras, Mexico—but he did create a shelf-stable cheese product first served to hungry Texas Rangers fans at Arlington Stadium in 1976. The concession nacho exploded in popularity soon after. (In fact, a man was arrested in 1983 for trying to steal Liberto’s trade secrets.) Liberto’s San Antonio-based Ricos Products Co. is still doing business today in 57 countries.

Silicone Breast Implants

Inventors: Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronlin
Houston, Texas ★ 1962

According to legend, the idea for the silicone breast implant was sparked when Houston’s Dr. Frank Gerow felt a blood-filled plastic bag and noted that it reminded him of a certain body part. Along with colleague Dr. Thomas Cronin, Gerow developed the idea into breast augmentation with silicone implants. They soon recruited Houstonite mother of six Timmie Jean Lindsey to undergo the first such procedure (they agreed to pin back Lindsey’s ears while they were at it). Today, Lindsey still lives outside Houston—and has her original implants.

Handheld Calculator

Inventors: Jack Kilby & Team
Dallas, Texas ★ 1967

Starting in the 1950s, Texas Instruments employee Jack Kilby pioneered the integrated circuit, which would help kick off a revolution in complex—and increasingly smaller—electronic devices. Kilby would later win the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the integrated circuit. In 1967, a team at Texas Instruments, led by Kilby and including James Van Tassel and Jerry Merryman, introduced a new application of this technology:
a calculator that measured a mere six inches tall. (A calculator released the year before had weighed 55 pounds.) Thanks to this team, Texas Instruments was later issued master patents to portable calculators.

Liquid Paper

Inventor: Bette Nesmith
Dallas, Texas ★ 1950s

Bette Nesmith was a single mother working as a typist at Texas Bank and Trust when she hatched the idea to cover her typos with white tempera paint rather than retype whole pages. Before long, she was mixing up batches of her new “correction fluid” in her blender at home to supply her fellow secretaries. Over the next 20 years, she built a flourishing company around the miracle product, which she sold to Gillette Corporation in 1979 for $47.5 million. (Fun fact: Bette’s son, Michael, is a musician
best known as one of the Monkees.)

First Artificial Heart Transplant

Pioneer: Dr. Denton A. Cooley
Houston, Texas ★ 1969

In 1962, Dr. Denton Cooley founded the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. It was there that he would perform the first successful heart transplant in the United States and the first artificial heart transplant in a human, both in 1969. A longtime faculty member of the Baylor College of Medicine, Cooley later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1984) and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (1998).

Selective Laser Sintering

Inventor: Carl Deckard
Austin, Texas ★ 1986

While an undergrad at UT Austin, Carl Deckard began developing the first iteration of selective laser sintering (SLS), a process that uses a laser to coalesce polymer powder into a predetermined solid shape—widely used in modern 3-D printing technology. In 1988, UT Austin licensed the technology. Deckard went on to commercialize SLS 3-D printing via a faculty- and student-owned UT spin-out company, DTM Corp. Deckard passed away in 2019, having earned 27 patents over his lifetime.

Frozen Margarita Machine

Inventor: Mariano Martinez
San Antonio, Texas ★ 1971

We can thank Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez for transforming the Texas happy hour. One day, Martinez was in a 7-Eleven (another Texas original) and saw some kids buying Slurpees. “I wonder,” he thought to himself, “if you could freeze a margarita in a Slurpee type of machine?” Indeed he could. Modifying an ice cream machine, he began serving frozen margs at Mariano’s soon thereafter. His original machine is now on display at the Smithsonian.

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