5 "Fathers" You Didn't Know You Had

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5. Gary Gygax, the father of role playing games

Gygax invented Dungeons and Dragons in 1974, and fathered most subsequent iterations of the classic tabletop game, including Advanced D&D, various Dungeon Master guides, and was heavily involved with the licensing of D&D to become a cartoon in 1983. (Check the cartoon's intro out -- I've never seen so much plotting compressed into so few seconds.) Gygax grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and lived there until his death last year. Near the end of his life, he said "I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else." And so we will.

4. Art Ingels, the father of karting

As in go-karting, which Ingels invented in 1956 while he was a designer at Kurtis Craft, which built Indy race cars. Ingels assembled the first go kart out of scrap metal and a surplus two-stroke cycle engine and tested it in the parking lot of Pasadena, California's famous Rose Bowl. Pictured below: a modern kart.

3. Abū Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī, the father of perfume

An early Islamic philosopher (c. 801"“873 CE) known for his pioneering work in astronomy, chemistry, logic, psychology and other diverse fields, he's best known for inventing a variety of scented perfume products through his extensive chemical research involving plant compounds. He also wrote the first perfume recipe book, the Kitab Kimiya' al-'Itr (Book of the Chemistry of Perfume), which included the first instructions for the production of camphor.

2. Al-Jazari, the father of robots

Another genius from the Islamic Golden Age (he lived between 1136"“1206), Jazari was an inventor, mechanical engineer and craftsman who contributed much to mechanical science, including development of the first crankshaft, and various pumps and water supply systems. But his most astounding work was in the field of automata, or robotics: Jazari built automated moving peacocks driven by hydropower, the earliest known automatic gates, a humanoid, drink-serving waitress, a hand-washing machine --

"Pulling a plug on the peacock's tail releases water out of the beak; as the dirty water from the basin fills the hollow base a float rises and actuates a linkage which makes a servant figure appear from behind a door under the peacock and offer soap. When more water is used, a second float at a higher level trips and causes the appearance of a second servant figure — with a towel!"

-- and long before the animatronic Rockafire Explosion band at Showbiz Pizza, Jazari created a band of musical robots. It was a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties, which performed "more than fifty facial and body actions during each musical selection." (Pictured below.)

1. Frank W. Cyr, father of the yellow school bus

Kid_hack.jpgIn the American heartland during the 1930s, there was no standard for school busing. Cyr, who had been a superintendent of schools in Nebraska and was working as a teacher educator, found that students were riding to school in all manner of contraptions, from old jalopies and hay wagons to horse-drawn kid hacks (pictured at left). With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cyr organized a conference between transportation experts and education experts in 1939, at which they agreed upon 44 standards, such as bus height and aisle width, which every school bus should meet. Most of those standards have since changed and been updated, except for one: the color. Known as School Bus Yellow, it was chosen for its high visibility to other motorists.

Next week: 5 "mothers" you never knew you had!

May 27, 2009 - 7:56am
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