Finding Information on Inventors and Inventions

Reference Books 

Printed books

Encyclopedia of modern everyday inventions [REF 609.04 C67]
Short histories and descriptions of devices or objects used in everyday life.
Gadgets and necessities: An encyclopedia of household innovations [REF 683.8 W38 2000]
Information on contemporary and obsolete household items as well as manufacturers and brand names.
Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the ancient world [REF 509.3 K87]
The earliest discoveries and inventions of humankind are covered.
Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance [REF 509.4 K87]
Inventions of this seminal period included guns and modern wheelbarrows.
Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the 17th century [REF 509.032 W72]
Covers both inventions of tools and scientific discoveries of the era.
Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the 18th century [REF 509.033 Sh3]
Early modern discoveries and inventions are covered.
Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the 19th century [REF 509.034 W72]
Covers the explosion of scientific discovery and invention in the 19th century.
A History of technology [REF 609 Si 6]
Five volumes covering historical periods from ancient empires to the first half of the 20th century. Each volume is indexed separately.
How products are made: An illustrated guide to product manufacturing [REF 670 H837]
This multi-volume resource covers hundreds of manufactured products, foodstuffs and materials. Use the index in the last volume to find specific items.
Milestones in health and medicine [REF 610.9 H21]
Alphabetically-arranged reference on important medical developments in history.
Milestones in science and technology: the ready reference guide to discoveries, inventions, and facts [REF 500 M86]
Brief entries on important inventions, in alphabetical order from Abacus to Zoology.
Inventing the 19th century: 100 inventions that shaped the Victorian age [REF 609.034 V28]
Organized alphabetically by invention, this book includes one page histories and descriptions for a variety of common and unique items with patent numbers and illustrations.
Inventing the 20th century: 100 inventions that shaped the world [REF 609.04 V28]
Similar to Inventing the 19th century this book also includes brief descriptions of each decade, setting the historical context for various inventions. Unlike Inventing the 19th century, this book is organized chronologically rather than alphabetically. Use the index to find specific inventions.

Finding More Books In the Library Search 

You can use the search to find books and articles about inventors or inventions. You can find the Library Search at or on the library home page.

Some Subject Headings To Use

  • Inventions
  • Inventions - History
  • Inventions - History - 19th century
  • Inventions - History - 20th century
  • Inventions - United States
  • Inventors - Biography
  • Women Inventors
  • [Name of inventor, last name first]

You may also try a Keyword search for "inventors" or "inventions".

Periodical Indexes 

The databases listed below include information on inventions, inventors and technological innovations. To access periodical and reference databases, go to If you are accessing the databases from off campus, be sure to click the link for off-campus users.

Academic OneFile [Gale]
General index to scholarly and popular periodicals. Includes many full-text articles.
Business Insights: Global
Index to business, management and economics journals, many of which are available in full-text. Also includes company profiles and history for many larger companies.

Web Sites 

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
The patent database includes patents issued in the U.S. since 1790. Patents from 1790 to 1975 are searchable by patent number and classification only. Patents from 1976 are searchable by keyword. Your computer must have a TIFF reader installed to view graphics. Links to free downloadable TIFF plug-ins are available from the site.
Inventor Archive at Lemelson-MIT
A browseable archive of previously featured inventors. The site also includes an Inventor's Handbook and additional Links & Resources.
Famous Inventions: A to Z
Browse by alphabetically organized inventions or inventors. Most provide links for more information. Note also special categories for timelines, "Famous Inventions," "Women Inventors," "Black Inventors," and others.
Snapshots of Department of Energy Research and Development Accomplishments
Includes brief overviews of DOE accomplishments in technology. Snapshots may provide links to more information.
Delphion's Gallery of Historic Patents
The historic patent archive includes images and patent numbers for several common items such the safety pin, phonograph, and fire extinguisher.
Delphion's Gallery of Obscure Patents
Visit the gallery archives for U.S. and foreign patents for strange and unusual objects such as toe puppets and a Santa Claus detector. Although other sites may have more research value, few are as entertaining.
History of the Radio: From Inception to Modern Day
A brief history of radio, with links to additional information.
Television, Radio, and [Microwaves] – History of Great Inventions
Links to sites on the history of thee inventions.

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Updated: 15 December 2014