Armenian inventors have left a significant mark on the international stage in the areas of technology and innovations by contributing groundbreaking technological innovations, life-changing medical discoveries, and many other novelties. In this blog post, we will explore the life and work of some famous Armenian inventors who have significantly advanced humanity’s knowledge and expertise in various areas.
Famous Armenian inventors:
- Luther George Simjian (ATM)
- Gabriel Kazanjian (hair dryer)
- Hovhannes Adamian (color television)
- Stephen Stepanian (concrete mixer truck)
- Artem Mikoyan (the first Soviet turbojet fighter)
- Cyrus Melikian (coffee vending machine)
- Edward Keonjian (first solar-powered pocket-sized radio transmitter)
- Raymond Damadian (magnetic resonance imaging – MRI)
- Albert Kapikian (Rotavirus vaccine)
- Michel Ter-Pogossian (positron emission tomography – PET)
- Alexander Kemurdzhian (first planetary rover, Lunokhod)
Let’s explore some of the achievements of these guys. Btw, you may have noticed this list is a bit of a “sausage fest”. So, if you have any info on great female Armenian inventors, please let me know and I’d love to add them to the list for a more balanced representation. Ping me on Twitter or Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Luther Georgie Simijian
Similjian is famous for many different innovations but above all for the first functioning Automated Teller Machine (ATM). He first built it in 1939, and later, in the 1960s, it was put into operation as a “bankograph” by the City Bank of New York.
Simijian was born in the Ottoman Empire. His mother, Josephine Zaharian, died when he was only a few months old. He was nine years old when the 1915 atrocities happened. The family had to flee to Syria, then again to Turkey, then France, and eventually to the United States.
This guy had brains! He obtained several patents, including patents for the “Pose-reflecting system for photographic apparatus”, color X-ray, a rotating chair with a movable mirror, the first flight simulator, and many others. Truly a unique human!
One of the first ATMs. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Armenian-American inventor Gabriel Kazanjian was the first to patent a blow dryer in the USA. It was the early 20th century when he did that, particularly in 1911. Before that, women had to visit a salon and sit long under the hood hair dryer. Kazanjian created a more practical version of the hood hair dryer, noticing that women in his life found the process rather annoying. By 1920 the first hand-held blow-dryers were widely present on the market. And although they weighed around two pounds and emitted only 100 watts of heat, they quickly became popular for the convenience of in-home usage they offered.
Gabriel Kazanjian was born to Armenian parents in the Ottoman Empire. The exact year of his birth is not known but it was probably some time in the middle of the 19th century. Most probably, like many other Armenian families, his family had to leave their homeland and they chose to settle in the USA.
First hand-held hair dryer patent. Source: uspto.gov
Hovhannes Adamyan is an Armenian inventor whose pioneering contribution changed the way we experience the world. He is a visionary whose work laid the foundation of color television.
Adamyan was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, He moved to Europe to continue his education in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Later on, he started working on his inventions.
Adamyan’s main contribution to the development of color television technology was his tricolor principle. Although he did not get a patent, this principle was later developed to create the color television, first shown in London in 1928.
Hovhannes Adamian. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Stephen Stepanian is known as the inventor of a self-discharging motorized transit mixer. It was the prototype of the concrete mixer truck. His patent was first rejected because the patent office believed that this truck could not support the weight of a concrete mixer. In some 5 years, Stepanian once again applied for the patent and received approval.
He was an Armenian-American who moved to the USA in 1906. There is an interesting story that showcases Stepnaian’s creativity. He was praised in the local media of the time for rescuing 13 people from a tree using a makeshift raft during the 1913 flood in Ohio. He made the raft from floating timbers. How cool is that?!
Stephan Stepanian. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
In the ever-evolving world of aerospace technology, there are individuals whose innovation and dedication lead to groundbreaking advancements. Artem Mikoyan was one of them. Together with his science-partner Mikhail Gurevich, Mikoyan made significant contributions to the aviation field. The Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau is best known for the MiG series of fighter aircraft. These first-ever made turbojet fighters are known for their speed, agility, and combat capabilities.
Artem Mikoyan was born on August 5, 1905, in the Armenian village of Sanahin. After completing his primary education, Mikoyan attended the Moscow Aviation Institute which paved the way for his passion for aviation and aeronautics. The MiG aircraft was invented by him and his partner Gurevich in 1940, when the future involvement of the USSR in World War 2 wasn’t yet clear, but tensions were rising. Russia produced MiG series aircrafts to this day, but of course those are more modern versions of the original one.
Artem Mikoyan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Cyrus Melikian was an American-Armenian inventor who made a big contribution to the coffee industry. With his business partner, Lloyd Rudd, he pioneered the coffee vending machine and the first US fresh-brew machine. Rudd and Melikian built their first coffee vending machine in a garage in Philadelphia in 1946. Two years later, they already made two million dollars. By 1965, their earnings went up to seven million USD. A pretty profitable invention if you ask me!
Cyrus Melikian, who passed away in 2008 at an honorable age of 88, was also known for his role in other inventions, including coffee pods, vendor icemaker, and in-machine coffee bean grinders. Also, as a huge foodie he founded several culinary schools where he taught and he even wrote some culinary books. Born into a family of Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire, he was yet another great example of resilience of my people.
Edward Keonjian was a pioneering engineer known as the “father of microelectronics”. He designed the world’s first solar-powered pocket-sized radio transmitter in 1954 and the prototype of an integrated circuit in 1959.
Keonjian was born in Tiflis, Georgia. He earned his engineering degree in Leningrad (St. Petersburg today). During WWII he ended up in a labor camp for prisoners of war where he dismantled aircrafts for spare parts. Following liberation after WWII, he immigrated to the United States in 1947, penniless and not knowing a word of English. Despite this, he managed to become a renowned scientist and inventor in the field of microelectronics.
Edward Keonjian. Source: Radiovan.fm.
Raymond Vahan Damadian (1936-2022) was an American physician and the inventor of the first NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) scanning machine. His early research on sodium and potassium in living cells sparked his interest in nuclear magnetic resonance, leading to the proposal of the MR body scanner in 1969.
Damadian’s groundbreaking work in NMR revealed the ability to distinguish tumors from normal tissue in vivo due to their distinct relaxation times, T1 and T2. He conducted the first full-body scan of a human in 1977 for cancer diagnosis, pioneering what is now known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It’s interesting that Raymond’s grandma died of cancer and probably this is how he first became interested in detecting cancer. I think it’s powerful when people find inner resources to translate trauma into something productive.
Raymond Damadian. Photo in public domain.
Albert Kapikian is the inventor of the Rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus is a severe illness. It used to be the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children and caused 500 000 deaths each year, before the vaccine was invented Kapikian. In 1974, researchers led by Albert Kapikian, M.D., first identified human rotavirus in the United States. In 1998, FDA approved RotaShield, the first rotavirus vaccine that came out of his lab.
Kapikian was an Armenian-American virologist. In 1956, he graduated from Cornell Medical College and began a career with the National Institute of Health. He was the one who took the first photos of coronavirus using novel techniques. In 1998, he was appointed deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He died in 2014 at the age of 83.
Albert Kapikian (in the middle). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Michel Matthew Ter-Pogossian was an Armenian-American medical physicist. He is best known for his research on positron emission tomography (PET) which eventually led to him becoming one of the co-inventors of the PET scan technology.
Michel Ter-Pogossian was born to Armenian parents who escaped from the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire. He grew up in France where his parents moved, escaping the pogroms. The history of his family made him very intolerant to injustice, which led to him being active in the French resistance during World War II.
Later in his career, he moved to the United States where he received his master’s degree and his Ph.D. in nuclear science from Washington University. And that’s where he truly excelled in his scientific career.
PET Scan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Kemurdzhian was famous for designing the metal chases for Lunokhod 1. This was the first-ever planetary rover for space exploration. Also, he authored 200 scientific publications and is the author of some 50 patented inventions. This man really kicked a*s!
He was born in Russia to Armenian parents. Both of his parents were aligned with the Socialist ideas and volunteered in the Russian Civil War with the Red Army. But his grandparents migrated from Trebizond in the late 19th century, most probably escaping from the pressures Armenians faced in the Ottoman Empire before the Genocide.
Lunokhod. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
We see a lot of Armenians in the global arena who invented things that we still use today. It’s interesting to note that mostly they were not born in Armenia. And it’s also an interesting fact that mostly they were descendants of those who escaped the Armenian Genocide in 1915 that happened in the Ottoman Empire. It’s fascinating how people can withstand such adversity and flourish in exile.
As I was researching this topic, I came across this cool post that gathered beautiful posters celebrating different Armenian inventors. I think you may want to check it out. Also, in my What Armenians invented post I look into everyday items of modern households (and not only) that were invented by my compatriots. Lastly, to spice things up a bit, I think you may also find these Armenian celebrities quite interesting. Joyful reading! If you liked this blog post, please get back to me with your thoughts on Twitter or Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips.