The National Inventors Hall of Fame Introduces Its 2024 Class

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Disney News, Imagineering, Technology, The Walt Disney Company

The innovation pioneers who will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for 2024 were revealed during an event at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus.

DNA sequencing, snowmobiles, Super Soakers, and special effects technologies created for Disney –– they might not seem related, but they have a common thread of innovative inventions. And their inventors and pioneers are all being celebrated by the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2024!

We were invited to attend the announcement of the 2024 class of National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus, and we’re sharing a look into the class –– and some of the exciting Disney connections between innovation and Imagineering –– below.

What is the National Inventors Hall of Fame?

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention. Founded in 1973, it’s been a joint partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

While the Hall of Fame recognizes the work of inventors over the course of past and present history, the organization also works to promote creativity and advance the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Over the past 50 years, the Hall of Fame has been committed to honoring those whose inventions have not only made the world a better place, but also ensured American ingenuity continues to thrive in future generations.

To achieve this, the Hall of Fame offers national, hands-on educational programming as well as collegiate competitions to help those of future generations explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 

The Inventor and Imagineering Connection

Lanny Smoot, National Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2024

Lanny Smoot is announced as a class of 2024 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Photo by Danny Shuster

This year, a key member of Walt Disney Imagineering is joining the National Inventors Hall of Fame: Lanny Smoot. Smoot, who holds more than 100 patents, is Disney’s most prolific inventor –– in fact, he’s one of the most prolific Black inventors in all of American history! When he joins the National Inventors Hall of Fame, he’ll be the first Imagineer since Walt Disney himself to receive this honor.

Smoot’s contributions to Disney’s Imagineering spans the theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and technology. You might recognize quite a few of the inventions he holds patents for and developed innovative technologies for, such as the drive system for the Star Wars BB-8 droid, interactive zeotropes for facial animation of objects (which has been used for numerous attractions), many of the Haunted Mansion’s special effects, lightsabers for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience, and “Where’s the Fire?” at Innoventions at EPCOT –– and those are just a small, small sampling!

While Smoot is clearly a highly skilled inventor, he’s also incredibly creative, two skillsets that really highlight the overlap between the inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the work done at Walt Disney Imagineering. Both organizations emphasize the importance of STEAM versus STEM, as the arts (along with creativity and imagination, of course) are a vital part of the innovation process. Technical skills are certainly necessary to accomplish much of the work inventors and Imagineers tackle, but creativity and experience with the arts is what helps generate truly exciting, world-changing ideas. 

This is why you’ll find inventors who cover a wide range of fields and specialities within the names of the Hall of Fame’s inductees, both for 2024 and years past. The organization doesn’t differentiate between innovation in science and innovation in creative fields –– so you’ll spot inventors like Smoot and 2022 inductee Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker toy, alongside individuals who’ve shaped the aerospace and medical fields, for example.

Additionally, both the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Disney hope to inspire the next generations of inventors and foster their creativity and spirit of innovation. Smoot himself find representation key to letting children of diverse backgrounds know that the work he does is viable for them, too. From programs like Camp Invention, which is a Hall of Fame program meant to encourage kids’ excitement about STEAM, to at-home activities that center around STEAM, both organizations are dedicated to helping young inventors push the boundaries of what we know today further for even more innovation in the future.

The 2024 National Inventors Hall of Fame Class

The 2024 class of inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame features 15 innovation pioneers. Their inventions range from the medical field to the arts, including individuals who’ve made incredible and groundbreaking strides in inventing new ways forward in the realms of cancer treatments to theatrical technologies and special effects. 

The 2024 class was revealed at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus, where the Hall of Fame and the USPTO honored the inventors for the very first time. 

“For more than 50 years, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has proudly recognized extraordinary creators and innovators,” said Michael Oister, CEO of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in a press release. “The stories of our class of 2024 — and their world-changing inventions as diverse as cancer treatments, imaging technology, agricultural machinery and the snowmobile — will be incorporated into our children’s invention education programs such as our summer and afterschool programs Camp Invention and Invention Project. These programs tap into innate problem-solving skills of educators and students through high-energy, interactive STEM experiences.”

Who’s in the class? Here’s the full list of innovative inventors:

  • James Allison, who invented immune checkpoint blockade therapy and performed pioneering work that led to effective cancer treatment.
  • Shankar Balasubramanian and David Klenerman, who co-invented Sequencing-by-Synthesis (SBS), a form of DNA sequencing that made low-cost, large-scale genome sequencing possible.
  • Eric Betzig and Harald Hess, who co-invented a super-resolution imaging technology called photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM), which allows scientists to work with unprecedented resolution.
  • Andrea Goldsmith, who’s created technical innovations like adaptive beamforming for multi-antenna Wi-Fi to provide fast, reliable wireless service worldwide.
  • Asad Madnai, who developed and commercialized the MEMS gyroscope for aerospace and automotive safety.
  • Lanny Smoot, Disney Imagineer who holds over 100 patents and is responsible for developing many special effects, interactive experiences, new ride vehicle and robotic concepts, and more for Disney’s theme parks, resort hotels, and cruise ships.
  • Xiaowei Zhuang, who introduced stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), one of the most widely used methods of super-resolution imaging.
  • Joseph-Arman Bombardier, who invented the Ski-Doo snowmobile, the first mass-produced snow machine.
  • George Washington Murray, who invented agricultural machinery that accelerated the planting and harvesting processes and served in U.S. Congress, advocating during his years of service for greater recognition for his fellow Black inventors.
  • Mary Florence Potts, who invented an improved sad iron with a lighter, cooler, and more ergonomic handle.
  • Alice Stoll,  research physiologist and pioneer in aerospace medicine who led the development of fire-resistant fibers and fabrics.
  • Jokichi Takamine, chemist and entrepreneur whose research led to the use of adrenaline in medicine (also known as epinephrine) for ailments like anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest.
  • Ralph Teetor, an automotive engineer who invented cruise control, which is now a standard feature across vehicles.

Want to learn more about the incredible contributions of these inductees? Visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame to discover the details of their pioneering work.

On May 9, 2024, the Hall of Fame will officially induct these newest members at The Greatest Celebration of American Innovation –– one of the innovation industry’s most highly-anticipated annual events! During the celebration, which will be held in Washington, D.C., the 15 inductees will be honored at a two-day event featuring Mo Rocca (humorist, journalist, and podcast host) as the emcee.

Thank you to Disney for inviting us to attend the announcement of the 2024 class of inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus.

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Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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