Jerome L. Murray
Inventor Jerome L. Murray held seventy-five patents on technologies that impacted the daily life of nearly all Americans, from the airplane boarding ramp to a peristaltic pump that made open-heart surgery possible.
Murray was born and raised in New York City and began inventing early in life. At age fifteen, he developed a windwill for Crosby Radio that would power radios for farmers living off the electrical grid.
He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for an aircraft company in Cleveland, which paid him just a dollar for each of the sixteen inventions he designed for it.
After serving as a test pilot in World War II, he decided to start his own company, Murwood Laboratories. Here, he invented a series of successful devices.
One was the television antenna rotator. When television reception depended on receiving analog signals from a rooftop antenna, homeowners often took a risky climb to the top of their homes to get a better picture. Murray generated nearly $40 million in revenue by marketing a device that adjusted the antenna using two strings pulled from a window.
Another was the airplane boarding ramp, a covered walkway connecting terminal to plane that replaced the steep, wheelchair-inaccessible portable steps at airports across the world.
He also invented two power features taken for granted in cars today: the power automotive seat and a device that automatically closed the top of a convertible. Other notable household devices he invented included the electric carving knife and the audible pressure cooker.
He developed but failed to popularize a fuel-efficient four cylinder engine called the Rotorcam.
He was most proud of the peristaltic pump, which was the first machine capable of pumping blood without harming cells. It operated through a wave-like motion. This device made it possible for surgeons to perform open-heart surgery, and its principles were later applied to kidney dialysis machines and industrial canning operations.
Agis Salpukas, "Jerome Murray, 85, a Many-Faceted Inventor," NY Times, 11 Feb 1998.