Steve Eighinger

Not all heroes are found in the spotlight

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 24, 2018 6:15 pm

There has been much attention paid -- and rightly so -- in recent days to the anniversary of the first walk on the moon in July 1969.

I can remember watching history unfold in front of a small black-and-white television about a month before I began my sophomore year of high school.

I knew then that astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would become household names and forever be remembered as the first astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface.

But the guy history often forgets about is Michael Collins, the astronaut who remained in orbit during that Apollo 11 mission. Someone had to stay back and spin the proper dials, and as a result, Collins has become little more than a footnote to the historic feat.

There have been many others in Collins' position through the years, people who are tied to other major historic accomplishments and contributions in rather anonymous ways.

History has often been unkind to many of the people who have helped us most. For example:

º Gideon Sundback: If there is even one person reading this column who has any idea of his importance I would be shocked.

And impressed.

We all owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Sundback, who invented the zipper in its modern form in 1917. When it was introduced, it was called the "continuous clothing closure." Or CCC, for short, I presume.

Down the road, the "continuous clothing closure" received its catchier name from a marketing group, and it has been used in many forms of clothing ever since.

º Larry Tesler: Here's another important guy whose best-known contribution to everyday modern life also is overlooked. Larry, a longtime computer guru, is acknowledged as the man who gave us "cut and paste." I'm grateful for Larry's computer savvy every day of my life.

º Willis Carrier: I've mentioned Willis before in this space. He's the gentleman who we all should give huge thanks to every time the thermometer reaches into the 80s and above. Willis was the inventor of air conditioning.

º Clarence Birdseye: His name probably gives away his contribution. You can thank Clarence for the technology used in frozen food. Birdseye discovered a new way to flash-freeze foods that produced much fresher and better-tasting results than the earlier, slower methods of freezing. His inventions marked the beginning of the frozen food industry as we know it today, and Birds Eye is still a popular brand of those frozen offerings.

º Thomas Adams: Journalist Stephanie Walden wrote in 2013 that "elementary schoolteachers everywhere have Thomas Adams to thank for the constant reprimanding of gum-cracking students." Before coming up with chewing gum, Adams first tried using chicle (a natural gum ingredient collected from trees) for rain boots, bicycle tires, masks and toys.