Inventors and Patents From the City of Tempe

In the month of April, nine new patents were granted in Tempe. Of those, the longest was 2,203 days. A patent for atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment and delivery to photobioreactors by membrane carbonation was approved on April 19, 2016, after filing on April 7, 2016. Although patents are an important part of the invention process, they are not a guarantee of success.


The UMKC Office of Technology Commercialization helps faculty and researchers transfer their inventions into the marketplace and help them create a product, technology, or service. These ideas are then licensed, allowing them to move from concept to commercial reality. The process varies depending on the nature of the invention.

Martha J Coston

In the 1870s, Martha Coston invented a flare that would light a boat’s lantern at night. She also founded a business that specialized in nautical safety. The business lasted until the mid-20th century. Her twist-ignition flare was patented in 1871, and Coston sold it to navies and yacht clubs all over the world. Despite the success of her inventions, Coston struggled with prejudice and chauvinism.

In 1859, Martha J Coston was newly widowed and found an idea for military naval signal flares in her ex-husband’s notebooks. While her husband’s design had failed to work during the American Civil War, she adapted it to make it more effective. She realized that the flares needed to be brighter, last longer, and be of various colours. She consulted chemists to determine the most suitable technology for her new inventions. She developed a red, green, and white signalling system for nighttime use. By 1859, she had patented pyrotechnic night signals, and her company continued to sell them until the 1970s.

Coston’s invention was so successful that it was used by the United States Life-Saving Service. The flares were designed to alert ships to dangerous coastal conditions and summon rescuers to wreck sites. Martha J Coston died in 1904 but her company continued to operate until 1985. She and her husband were buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

B. Franklin Coston

Coston was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and did not receive any formal education. Despite this, he became a successful entrepreneur and inventor in his own right. He eventually founded the Coston Manufacturing Company. He was a major contributor to the early development of aviation.

Coston was also instrumental in improving safety on the seas. He designed and built a flare for ships to help them navigate safely. The device was popular with the U.S. Navy, but the purchase of his patent was delayed due to the Civil War. He traveled to Europe in 1859 with his sons to market his inventions. Before leaving, he secured patents in England and France. He was in Europe for three years, spending much of that time in Paris and London. In addition, he also negotiated a patent with the British government.

Coston received her first patent in her husband’s name, but later filed for one in her own name. Her patenting strategy was calculated to capitalize on her husband’s already established reputation as a successful inventor. Coston’s inventions are well-known in the Navy, and the United States Navy eventually adopted the technology. The Coston supply company, which Coston founded, operated until the 1970s.

The Coston Signal Flare is a pyrotechnic signal flare, which was first used during the Civil War. The flares, which burned when they were lit, were a popular way to communicate with sailors in the water. Coston’s flares also became standard equipment on boat vessels, and her invention became the foundation of the United States Life-Saving Service, which later became the United States Coast Guard.

Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Smith, Inventors and Patent From the City of Tempe features the work of local inventors. This exhibit celebrates the city’s long history of innovation. It highlights the work of local residents who were granted federal patents. The exhibit also highlights the work of local businesses. The exhibit is free, and it is open to the public. This exhibit is sponsored by the Tempe Economic Development Corporation.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area ranks ninth among all metropolitan areas in the number of patents granted. Notable inventions that were developed in the metro include the 7-Eleven object tracking system, Accenture’s healthcare analytics platform, Deere’s scouting system with an autonomous ground vehicle, and Mavenir Networks’ system for low-latency applications in cloud RAN. Other examples include Parking Genius’ sensors for determining direction and speed of vehicles entering and exiting a parking lot, and Toyota’s product recognition system through multi-model image processing.

System of Pyrotechnic Night Signals

The System of Pyrotechnic Night Signals was first patented in 1859. It was an important invention for both civilians and military personnel, and it was developed by Martha Coston. She directed a team of chemists who applied the technology from fireworks to military planning. The resulting flares became the basis of the Civil War’s communication system, helping the Union win the war. The flares were eventually patented and sold to shippers and navies around the world. They were a success, and the company continued into the 1970s.

During the mid-19th century, fireworks were popular in Europe and the United States. The first American pyrotechnic, G.A. Lilliendahl, owned a company in New York. In addition, he held the production rights for the first small signaling flares for the U.S. government. He also developed and manufactured rocket harpoons.

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