National Inventors Day – 5 reasons to celebrate in Huntsville

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National Inventors Day is significant in Huntsville, especially in the aerospace field. (Michael Seale /Hville Blast)

Saturday, Feb. 11 is National Inventors Day, if you didn’t know (I didn’t, until our trusty intern Curtis Venetta told me), and that got me thinking about the innovation history here in the Rocket City. And WOW! Did I travel down a rabbit hole of fascinating information!

Turns out, there are tons of inventions that originated here in Huntsville. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Rocket-Propelled Missile

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You cannot celebrate National Inventors Day in Huntsville without a nod to Werhner Von Braun’s invention. (Unites States Army Archives)

If I did not lead off a list for National Inventors Day with Dr. Werhner Von Braun’s patented rocket-propelled missile, I might as well just pack up and leave this city. Von Braun patented the rocket-propelled missile in 1961 while he was director of Marshall Space Flight Center.

This invention, of course, helped give Huntsville its nickname as the Rocket City.

2. Smart Pill Bottle

Happy National Inventors Day to UAH’s Dr. Emil Jovanov, who invented the smart pill bottle in 2011. (University of Alabama in Huntsville)

The Smart Pill Bottle was invented in 2011 by University of Alabama in Huntsville professor Dr. Emil Jovanov. This cool creation notifies you to take your medications or reminds you if you missed a dose.

The patented technology uses a sensor in the bottle to detect when the bottle has been opened and calculate the number of pills or amount of liquid remaining. The information is wirelessly transmitted to the cloud, from which a patient can be notified by phone, text or email. Patients can also be reminded by a blinking light and sound from the bottle itself.

3. The Quick Plane

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The Quick Plane, invented in 1908, is on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. (City of Huntsville)

In 1908, William Lafayette Quick and his sons built the first airplane to be flown in the state of Alabama. They began the project in 1900, according to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Quick’s “Flying Machine” was among the first monoplanes to be flown in the United States when it went airborne on its first and only flight in April, 1908. Restored, it is now on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

4. The OttiMat

Huntsville barber Phil McCrory invented the OttiMat, which used human hair to clean up oil spills. (

National Inventors Day doesn’t just honor scientists and professors, by the way.

This story is pretty cool. In 1993, Huntsville barber Phil McCrory figured out that human hair was a great resource to soak up oil. So, with that knowledge, he invented the OttiMat, which is mat made from discarded human hair that is used to clean up major oil spills all over the world.

How’s that for using your head?

5. Wikipedia

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Huntsville native Jimmy Wales invented the online wealth of information, Wikipedia. (Wikipedia)

How many people with internet access can honestly say they have never used Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that has information about basically everything?

Okay, while Wikipedia may not have been patented in Huntsville, its inventor, Jimmy Wales, is a Huntsville native. Wales was born in Huntsville and graduated from Randolph School before getting his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and his master’s degree from the University of Alabama.

Since its first edit in 2001, Wikipedia has grown to become one of the top online research tools in the world. According to publicly disclosed figures, the English version of the website averages about 255 million pageviews a day. Seriously.

Celebrating National Inventors Day in Huntsville would not be complete without mentioning Wikipedia, right?

What are your favorite Huntsville-based inventions? Let us know on FacebookTikTok and Instagram, and follow us on those channels if you don’t already!

Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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