Lesson Plan: Inventors

Overview of historical inventions

Robert Gordon talked about inventions throughout history, specifically those from the 19th and 20th centuries.


Throughout history, great ideas evolved from people who sought to improve the way of life for people throughout the world. They searched for ways to make tasks more efficient, expand communication, enjoy entertainment, and to travel with ease, among many others. These inventors questioned the status quo, generated new ideas, and challenged themselves to create inventions that have become a part of our daily lives. View the videos below to learn about some of the inventors and their contributions who shaped our world.


  • STEP 1.

    Assign background reading from a textbook or another appropriate source relating to inventors in American history.

  • STEP 2.

    As a class watch the following video clips and discuss the inventions, as well as the qualities that embody inventors, that are explained by the guests.

  • STEP 3. Break students up into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout or complete the individual Bell Ringer questions, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.


    • Benjamin Franklin (5:05) Walter Isaacson talked about the scientific experiments and inventions of Benjamin Franklin.

    • Eli Whitney (1:14) Lee Ann Caldwell talked about the impact of the cotton engine on Georgia.

    • Robert Fulton (6:09) Kirkpatrick Sale explains that while Robert Fulton did not invent the steamboat, his knowledge of machinery and an ability to incorporate the inventions of others into his own work led to the development of the first truly workable steamship.

    • Samuel Morse (2:00) Kenneth Silverman talked about the impact of the telegraph on the country.

    • Thomas Edison (13:28) David Dazer gave a tour of the Thomas Edison Depot Museum and spoke about Mr. Edison’s time growing up in Port Huron, Michigan, where he lived from ages 7 to 16.

    • Alexander Graham Bell (2:35) Professor Christopher Beauchamp talked about Alexander Graham Bell and the invention of the telephone.

    • George Washington Carver (2:20) Christina Vella talked about the inventions and accomplishments of George Washington Carver.

    • Henry Ford (5:46) Bob Casey talked about Henry Ford, the Model T and his impact on transportation.

    • Nikola Tesla (8:48) Guests talk about Nikola Tesla and his work in Colorado Springs, his scientific breakthroughs, and his rivalry with Thomas Edison.

    • The Wright Brothers (5:42) David McCullough talked about Wilbur and Orville Wright, the first manned flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and their motivation to constantly improve on their designs and invention.

    • Jonas Salk(10:39) Charlotte Jacobs talked about her book, Jonas Salk: A Life, about the life and career of the creator of the polio vaccine.

    • Steve Jobs (4:18) Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli talked about the life of Steve Jobs and what made him a successful innovator.

    • Mark Zuckerberg (3:16) Mark Zuckerberg talked about how Facebook has evolved since its inception and its vision for the future.

Additional Resource


  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Eli Whitney
  • George Washington Carver
  • Henry Ford
  • Inventions
  • Jonas Salk
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Robert Fulton
  • Samuel Morse
  • Steve Jobs
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Thomas Edison


Science & TechnologyU.S. HistoryWorld History


Middle SchoolHigh School