Who Invented The Slinky™?


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The Slinky™ was invented by Philadelphia engineer Richard T. James in the mid-1940s. The Slinky™ is a toy made of a steel or plastic coil that tumbles smoothly down a flight of stairs.

It wasn't James's intention to create a toy. The Slinky™ was actually the result of a failed attempt to produce an antivibration device for ship instruments—something that would absorb the shock of waves. When James accidentally knocked one of his steel spirals off a shelf, he saw it literally crawl, coil by coil, to a lower shelf, onto a stack of books, down to the tabletop, and finally come to rest, upright, on the floor.

James' wife, Betty, saw its potential as a toy and named it "slinky." Betty James, now age 78, still runs James Industries, the company she founded with her husband in 1946 to market the toy Slinky™.

Sources: American Scientist, vol. 75, no. 3 (May-June 1987), p. 289; Discovery Channel Online. [Online] Available http://www.discovery.com/doc/1012/world/birthdayl0096/birthday.html, August 20, 1997; Harris, Harry. Good, Old-Fashioned Yankee Ingenuity, pp. 267-68; Panati, Charles. Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, pp. 380-81.

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