TAMPA — It’s hard to imagine life without them. Electric lighting and power systems. A cold sports drink after physical exertion. Air conditioning during the sweltering Florida summer.
Leaders in research and innovation throughout the state considered those developments significant enough to induct their inventors and three others into the inaugural class of the new Florida Inventors Hall of Fame, established on the University of South Florida campus.
Thomas Edison, the nation’s most prolific inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and electrical systems to power it, along with batteries, recorded sound and film, is joined on the list by Robert Cade, a physician who developed Gatorade at the University of Florida, and John Gorrie, an Apalachicola doctor who invented the ice-making machine and is considered the father of air conditioning and refrigeration.
Also named to the first class are William Glenn, a Florida Atlantic University professor who had a series of innovations in high resolution imaging technology for the U.S. space program and the military; Shin-Tson Wu, professor at the University of Central Florida who invented liquid crystal displays, adaptive optics, laser beam steering, biophotonics and materials that have had a major impact on display technology worldwide; and USF’s own Shyam Mohapatra, recognized for his many inventions in the field of nanoscale biomedical diagnostics and therapeutics in cancers, asthma, viral infections and traumatic brain injury.
“We are thrilled to be announcing this charter class of outstanding inventors whose work has had such an impact on the lives of Floridians and the world,” said Paul Sanberg, chair of the hall’s advisory board and senior vice president for research and innovation at USF. “Our hope is that the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame will encourage individuals of all ages and backgrounds to strive toward the betterment of Florida and society through continuous, groundbreaking innovation.”
Edison, who held 1,093 patents, was known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” the New Jersey town where he did his most significant work. He built a winter home in Fort Myers and carried out late experiments there through the 1920s.
A statue of Gorrie stands in the National Statuary Hall collection in the U.S. Capitol.
Of the six, only Wu and Mohapatra are still living and working. The group will be inducted at the hall’s inaugural induction ceremony on Sept. 10.