How Old Do You Have To Be To Be An Inventor?

Although the business world tends to focus on and cater to entrepreneurs of whom the youngest are school leavers and the oldest below retirement age, there is no limit on the age of an inventor. I often wonder why incubators and centers for innovation are not promoted and established for school children and retirees. The different experiences and problems associated with these age groups combined with the lack of society’s expectations from them can make an interesting breeding ground for innovation and invention.

In this week’s post I am including a few examples of inventions by very young children to illustrate the point I am making. My next post will be directed to inventions by the elderly.

Sam Houghton was three when he invented a new type of broom. Whilst his father swept up garden leaves using two separate brushes, one for the larger leaves and the other for finer debris, Sam asked this father why he was using two brushes. He then tied together the two brooms with an elastic band. In that way his father did not need to switch between the two brushes. The resulting broom can be flipped for different functions. He was granted a UK patent GB2438091.

John J. Stone-Parker was four years old when he observed that when his dad tried to put ice in his drinks, it slipped. His solution was a star shaped device to prevent this happening. He received a US Patent No. 4,842,157.

Eight-year-old Chelsea Lanmon received a US Design Patent No. 343,233 in 1994 for her “pocket diaper,” a diaper that has a pocket that holds a baby wipe and baby powder puff. She thought up the idea when she was five from helping her mum change her brother’s diapers.

Eight-year-old Theresa Thompson and her 9-year-old sister Mary invented a solar tepee in 1960. They called the device a Wigwarm.

It is interesting and perhaps ironic to note that although the inventing was not problematic for these children, the patent application procedure was probably too difficult for them to handle without the help of an older grown-up person.

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