The National Inventors Hall of Fame inducts 16 for its 2010 class
The thing that is obvious if your profession is, say, NBA basketball, but less obvious if your profession is, say, adhesives and laminates, is that every field has its own hotshot studs.
"Oh, I get maybe six or seven autograph requests" a week, Arthur Fry is saying modestly.
"Now, do you respond to those?" his collaborator Spencer Silver asks. He's always afraid that if he gives out autographs, someone could use his signature for identity theft.
Fry and Silver were surrounded by a small cluster of people in the National Press Building. They were there to be announced as two of 2010's 16 inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a tradition that began in 1973 with the posthumous inaugural induction of Thomas Edison, who invented both the light bulb and the motion picture camera.
Fry and Silver invented Post-its.
They are the studs.
On Wednesday, the group all participated in an official induction ceremony to the Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1973 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations. There is a corresponding museum in Alexandria, featuring the 421 inventors -- including this year's class -- who have been honored in nearly 40 years.
Fry is briefly excited when he notices a reporter taking notes on a pad of sticky notes, then shakes his head sadly when he begins to suspect that he's seeing not the real deal with 3M adhesive -- discovered by Silver and made ubiquitous by Fry -- but a knockoff.
He reaches over and peels off a pale yellow sheet, holding it aloft for inspection.
"Our paper doesn't curl like that."
Somewhere in its 30-year history the Post-it has become the quintessential archetype of American ingenuity, a divinely inspired creation story (Fry first thought of attaching the adhesive to paper when he needed bookmarks for a church hymnal) meets a society obsessed with organization and to-do lists. Post-its have become the subjects of visual art, theater and Taiwanese soap operas. In the film "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," when two flunkies want to impress their old classmates they decide to claim that they invented Post-its.