Ralph Teetor bigraphy, stories - American inventor

Ralph Teetor : biography

1890 - 1982

Ralph Teetor (1890-1982) was a prolific (and blind) inventor who invented cruise control. He was the longtime president of the automotive parts manufacturer The Perfect Circle Co. Corporation (acquired in 1963 by Dana Corp., then sold to Mahle_GmbH in 2007) in Hagerstown, Indiana, a manufacturer of piston rings.

Cruise control

Teetor was inspired to invent cruise control one day while riding with his lawyer. The lawyer would slow down while talking and speed up while listening. This rocking motion so annoyed Teetor that he was determined to invent a speed control device. In 1945, after ten years of tinkering, Ralph Teetor received his first patent on a speed control device. Early names for his invention included "Controlmatic", "Touchomatic", "Pressomatic" and "Speedostat" The name finally chosen was "Cruise Control". The device wasn't used commercially until Chrysler introduced it in 1958.

Early life

Teetor became blind at age five in an accident, but as a grown man he preferred never to discuss his disability. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1912.

Teetor's highly developed sense of touch proved helpful in developing a technique for balancing steam turbine rotors used in torpedo-boat destroyers. Dynamic balancing of large components had puzzled others before Teetor solved the problem.

Other achievements

Teetor managed to live his life almost as if his accident had never happened, and went on to become successful as an engineer, manufacturing executive and entrepreneur. His other inventions included an early powered lawn mower, lock mechanisms, and holders for fishing rods.

In 1936, Teetor was elected as president of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). In 1963, he endowed the SAE's Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award which is awarded annually to stimulate "contacts between younger engineering educators and practicing engineers in industry and government."

In 1965, Teetor received two honorary degrees, Doctor of Engineering at the Indiana Institute of Technology and Doctor of Laws at Earlham College, Indiana. He was also made a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.See p.214 in The planetarium and one of the residence houses at Earlham College are named in Teetor's honor.

In 1988, Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, for his numerous contributions to the automotive industry.

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