Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in Science and Technology

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Pinch Trigger Pump Water Gun patent image, 1991.

Courtesy of U.S. Patent Office.

Like so many famous inventions, the Super Soaker™, one of the bestselling toys of all time, was discovered by accident. In 1982, NASA scientist Lonnie Johnson was experimenting at home for a Freon substitute, an environmentally-damaging CFC used as a conductor in heat pumps. While tinkering with compressed air, Johnson accidentally shot a spray of water across the room. The water had been propelled through a makeshift nozzle, and as a result was projected in a path much like water exiting a squirt gun, though much more forcefully. A full prototype, called the Power Drencher, was developed in 1989, and Johnson received a patent for the “Pinch Trigger Pump Water Gun” in 1991. That same year Johnson licensed the Power Drencher to toy manufacturer Larami, Corporation, who rebranded it Super Soaker™. It is reported that the Super Soaker™ has generated over $200 million dollars in sales since its introduction.

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