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Celebrate Upstate inventors on National Inventors Day

It’s National Inventors Day, a day for celebrating those who have improved our lives by conceiving and creating everything from electricity to sticky notes.

The Upstate has played a role in thousands of inventions – some you’ve probably heard of and many you likely haven’t. For example, General Electric’s Gas Turbine manufacturing plant in Greenville accounted for about 20 percent of patents issued to South Carolina inventors in 2018. And Spartanburg-based Milliken & Company has been granted more than 2,500 U.S. patents and more than 5,500 patents worldwide.

While Milliken’s Surface and Edge Attachment for Installation of Multi-Component Floor Mat invention may have slipped by you, here are few more familiar inventions with ties to the Upstate:


One of the Upstate’s best-known inventors is Greenville native Charles H. Townes. A physicist and winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics, Townes was granted several patents related to radar bombing systems during World War II. But his most noted invention is the MASER (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), the forerunner of the laser.

A bronze statue of Townes sits at the corner of South Main Street and Falls Park Drive in downtown Greenville. He died in 2015 at the age of 99.

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The bronze statue of Charles Townes along South Main Street in Greenville.

Free Fall Amusement Ride

If you’ve ever experienced that sinking feeling on a freefall ride, you can thank Gerald L. Barber of Greenville SC. Founder and CEO of BarberWind, LLC, Barber has more than 60 U.S. patents including those for a wind turbine and an inflatable life-saving necklace.

In 2015, Barber was inducted into the Outdoor Amusement Business Association Hall of Fame for industry innovations and contributions to the growth of the outdoor, mobile amusement industry.

Snap, Crackle & Pop

The next time you’re in the grocery store, check out a box of Rice Krispies on the cereal aisle. Illustrator and cartoonist Vernon Grant, who lived most of his life in Rock Hill SC, created Kellogg’s cereal characters Snap, Crackle and Pop. He also illustrated many children’s books and advertisements for Gillette, Hershey, Eveready, General Electric, Oscar Mayer and Wrigley’s. Grant died in Rock Hill on July 9, 1990 at the age of 88.

A native of Oregon, comics artist Dave Cockrum spent much of his life in Belton SC. He is perhaps best known for co-creation of the new X-mean characters Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus. His notable works include Legion of Super-Heroes and Uncanny X-Men. Cockrum died in Belton on November 26, 2006 at the age of 63.

Daniel McAbee, owner of The Tangled Web in Spartanburg, displays the work of Dave Cockrum.

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