They gathered in Tampa to celebrate a Florida Dream Team of remarkable people for their inspiration — and perspiration. Surprise: This team has (almost) nothing to do with sports.
Six Florida inventors were inducted Wednesday evening into the new Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. Some of them — especially Thomas Alva Edison — are familiar to many. Others toil under the public radar, like many creators of life-changing inventions.
As many halls of fame discover, it's easy to pick inventors at the start. Of the inaugural six, four are honored posthumously. It gets tougher ahead. Today's "inventors" typically delve deeply into technologies or medical research so advanced that it will challenge even the best selection committee to choose among future candidates.
The Florida Inventors Hall of Fame announced its six winners alphabetically. I prefer to rank them by how much they have contributed to improving people's lives. Obviously, that favors inventors of the past, whose genius has had more time to materialize:
1. Thomas Edison (1847-1931), the most prolific inventor in U.S. history and a longtime Fort Myers resident. He focused here on trying to produce a commercially viable synthetic rubber so that the U.S. military would not be dependent on foreign sources of natural rubber.
2. John Gorrie (1803-1855), Apalachicola doctor and father of refrigeration and air conditioning. Without him, few of us would be living in the Florida we know.
3. Shyam Mohapatra (1955- ), University of South Florida professor and pioneer of applied biomedical nanotechnology, Tampa. He develops biodegradable particles to deliver drugs and genes that regulate immune response to inflammatory diseases.
4. Robert Cade (1927-2007), University of Florida professor whose hydrating sports drink Gatorade was first used by heat-exhausted college football players. Now it's not only a worldwide product owned by PepsiCo, it has generated more than $200 million in royalties to UF.
5. William Glenn (1926-2013), Florida Atlantic University professor developed high-def digital imaging for NASA.
6. Shin-Tson Wu (1953- ), University of Central Florida professor whose liquid crystal research has impacted display technology, Orlando.
Kudos to all who launched this hall of fame — including Paul Sanberg, chairman of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame advisory board and USF senior vice president for research and innovation, who saw a need to elevate Florida inventors.
A shoutout also goes to the Hall of Fame advisory board. It's a who's who from Florida's most dynamic organizations — SRI Research, Moffitt Cancer Center, All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, Draper Lab, the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, and many others.
May next year's Dream Team be no less formidable.
Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] or (727) 893-8405. Follow @venturetampabay.