Ohio Science and
Technology in the Future
*Stephen M. Millett, Ph.D.
to legend, over 200 years ago Thomas Worthington from his
Adena estate watched
the sun rise over the hills of Chillicothe and visualized a bright future for
the infant State of Ohio. The scene was incorporated into the state’s Great
Seal. Worthington believed that he had seen a providential sign, which over time
Positioned between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes and on the well-traveled
road to the beckoning West, Ohio attracted hard-working, ambitious, and
entrepreneurial folks. Forests and prairies became farms, cabins became cities,
and shops became factories. By the beginning of the 20th century,
Ohio had become one of the five leading states in the country in terms of
population, economic size, and political power.
Despite changes in its status,
with several states surpassing it in population and wealth during the second
half of the 20th century, Ohio is well positioned to be great again
as it enters its third century as a state. Even more so than in the past, the
future will require innovations in science, technology, and business and the
development of a culture of success to revitalize the fortunes of Ohio.
A Foundation of Innovation
Ohio has been a great state for
innovation, both in technology and in business. Ohio spawned the development of
numerous technologies and cradled the creation of corporate models needed to
develop and sustain them in the world marketplace. Ohioans invented, to use an
old metaphor, both new mouse traps and new mouse trap companies. A few examples
Cincinnati, William Procter and James Gamble entered into a partnership in 1837
to make superior soaps and candles. Their partnership became The
Gamble Company (P&G), which invented and commercialized such innovations as
floating bars of soap, laundry detergents, cavity-preventing fluorinated
toothpastes, and treatments for heartburn and osteoporosis. P&G remains today a
global leader in consumer products because of technological research and
development (R&D), product innovation and quality, and strong marketing.
In 1870, Dr. Benjamin Franklin
Goodrich, a Union army surgeon in the Civil War, founded a company to
manufacture innovations in rubber products. The
B. F. Goodrich Company of Akron
successfully produced rubber fire hoses and other products that replaced
leather. In 1896 the company began production of the first rubber tires for the
first generation of automobiles.
In 1879 James S. Ritty of Dayton
invented the "Incorruptible Cashier," popularly known as the cash register. He
sold his patent to John H. Patterson, who created the
National Cash Register
Company (NCR). Ritty’s invention and Patterson’s savvy for organizing a business
presaged the development of mechanical
parts manufacturing in Ohio and laid the groundwork for automotive
manufacturing. For decades NCR
dominated the manufacturing of cash
registers and other retail and banking equipment. Nearly a century later, NCR
became a global pioneer in automated teller machines (ATMs), business computing,
and digital data analysis.
Charles Kettering, a former
employee of NCR in Dayton, invented an electric starter for automobiles, and
with Edward Deeds, founded Delco in 1909. The company was later sold to General
Motors, where Kettering became the champion of technical innovations for cars
and trucks. Production of automobiles and automotive components remains a
significant portion of Ohio’s industrial output.
in Dayton, at about the same time that Kettering was creating a breakthrough
innovation in the automobile industry, the
Wright Brothers, whose bicycle shop was
practically in the morning shadow of NCR factories, created the first airplane
capable of controlled, powered flight....