Bunny Island Key West

T.E. Murray inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame – Finally!

This Sunday I have a feature article coming out in Solares Hill on T.E. Murray, a forgotten inventor, who has finally been inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame for one of 462 patents that electrified New York city. This was an egregious oversight and needed to be corrected granting Murray his proper place in American history.

My upcoming article chronicles the efforts of the Murray, Cuddihy & MacGuire family  to gain T.E. Murray (1860-1929) entry into these hallowed halls. By all accounts Sean MacGuire, his great- great grandson and himself the holder of two patents (the second one came in yesterday – I’m not kidding) and 8 patents pending was the driving force behind this successful induction.

If it wasn’t done now – a century after the fact –  his work would be in danger of being lost to history.

The first reception and dinner was held at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum on the campus of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA.

NPR emcee Neal Conan hosted one-on-one chats with Inductees and Inductee representatives. Sean spoke about how little was known about Murray and the struggle to have him recognized. How was it possible that his work had been forgotten when the American flag flew at half-mast at Waterside upon news of the death of Murray on July 21, 1929?

Sean & Neal Conan

The talk ended with Neal Conan commenting on Sean’s newly minted patent, remarking that this was the first time a patent had ever been allowed (patents are allowed before being granted) during the actual event.

There’s no question in Sean’s mind that T.E. Murray himself was behind that bit of handiwork.

Here’s Sean with Martin Hellman – “I was willing to risk appearing foolish and was lucky enough to end up being one of the inventors of public-key cryptography,” said Martin Hellman, professor emeritus of electrical engineering.

The journeys of inductees share a theme – perseverance, and a healthy disregard for the opinions of others.

Amongst others, we sat next to Lloyd Conover, inventor of tetracycline.

But no matter how grand, the dinner was still chicken. Fancy chicken, but chicken nontheless!

And a gorgeous bouquet from which I plucked a single yellow rose to dry.

We had conversations with the families of Bernard Silver (who died in 1963) and Joe Woodland, inventors of the first optically scanned barcode in 1948 – a technology now ubiquitous all over the world.

And I also met Gary K. Michelson, inducted this year for his pioneering work on spinal surgical devices. Here he is with guest.

Here’s Sean outside the Smithsonian preparing for the second dinner at The Portrait Gallery.

Inside the hallway with his hero Robert Kahn, co-designer of TCP/IP.   In layman’s terms this guy invented the Internet!

Here are the tables being set up the second dinner – this time at the Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. This was the most fabulous event I have ever attended.

Party guests – I love her gold silk outfit and flapper-style beads.  After all the intellectual back-and-forth, I was happy for fashion, color and style. There is always room for a little showiness, I always say.


Here’s a snap of the winner of “most gorgeous couple” of the evening.

One of the most stylish dresses – in a daring yellow.

Here are the fabulous and very gracious Murray girls. We were happy to finally meet someone who retained the Murray name. Not only that, but they had hair to die for!

Enough frippery.

This project is a long time in the works. It began sometime in 2006 or so when Sean discovered how many patents his great grandfather had and set about getting his life’s work recognized.

The National Inventor’s Hall of Fame requires that the inventor be cited for one patent only so it was tough deciding which Murray patent he would have chosen for himself. Here’s the screenshot from the ceremony at the Smithsonian with patent #920,613

18-Jul-1907 920613 ELECTRIC SAFETY FUSE

To see all his patents, including this one,  go to the website that Sean created for his great-great grandfather.


Some of the evenings highlights: Films of inductees Ralph Merkle, Whitfield Diffie and Mark Hellman – Public Key Cryptography – when they were working on the invention.

Whit Diffie discussing the patent system and his biggest supporter, his wife.

Rini Paiva, Executive Director of the NIHOF sat at our table. She held up beautifully under the fire of relentless quizzing – vivacious and funny, they are lucky to have her – and so were we.

Murray’s descendants pose and check text messages.

The ceiling was an architectural marvel.

This ceiling in the atrium let in a gorgeous golden light .

People milling about, before dinner is served.


And presentations on stage.

Finally we repaired to the hotel across the street and snapped this family shot of the induction certificate.

Again the company was awesome – iconoclasts – the best thinkers that America has to offer.  Murry says it simply and best – “Let me tackle the job which the other fellow says cannot be done.”

T.E. Murray 1860-1929 Great American Inventor

9 comments for “T.E. Murray inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame – Finally!

  1. May 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    What a great thing Sean did making sure his great grandfather’s work was recognized. I can only imagine how exciting it was to discover his family legend was equal to, or maybe even surpassed, the facts. I would have been in heaven just looking through the old books in those libraries.

    Congratulations to him as well for his two patents. The imagination, and work, of creating things is only one part of getting the job done. You also have to shepherd it along as it makes its way into the world. Really, ’tis a lesson in not giving up. Thanks.

    Nice jgs Jessica. LOVE the frippery and fancy prose.

  2. May 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Great story and great photos. It’s hard to imagine being in the same room with so many people who have so profoundly changed our way of life. It was certainly a major event.

    Murray’s recognition may be belated, but no less deserved for his important contributions. I’m frankly pretty surprised to learn that his award was so long in coming, since I’m sure that everyone there knew who he was and knew of his significance.

  3. andrew
    May 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    That’s a pretty swanky affair. One day it could be Sean. The hardest thing is to invent something that becomes ubiquitous, so much so that the device remains but the person behind it is forgotten. Sean did a good thing by bringing glory to someone who should be remembered.

  4. wyn dempsey
    May 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you for thinking of me, wildfire. Too bad your Dad couldn’t enjoy a talk with Sean. Wonderful to see what he accomplished and a view of the fantastic events.
    Your proud Auntie.

  5. June 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for bringing awareness to Thomas E. Murray and some of this inventions. It seems that he was long overdue to be inducted into The Inventor’s Hall-of-Fame.

  6. James Thomas Murray
    December 1, 2015 at 11:41 am

    As an electrical engineer with two (2) patents, i’m working with the MTA on the Substations (replacing) in Brooklyn that Thomas Murray installed 100 years ago. I emailed Sean a few years back to see if there is any family connection ???

    • January 5, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Absolutely there is – will get this to him today – just resurrecting this blog, apologies for the delay.

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