Throughout history, many inventions have captured the attention of the world.

The Science Museum of Minnesota will be highlighting some of these featuring the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and other famous inventors at their new summer exhibit. But not all inventors come from far-off places.

The Minnovation showcase will open along with the exhibit, featuring 26 inventions that happened right here in Minnesota.

According to Science Museum director of strategic partnerships Jon Severson, Minnesota has been a longtime leader in technical research and development, which he hopes will continue in the future.

“The workforce in Minnesota has a need for more STEM-based employees,” Severson said. “We hope to inspire the next generation of workers.”

Here are some of the Minnesota innovations featured in the exhibit:

Post-it notes

First conceived in 1974, the Post-it note was invented by Art Fry, a scientist for Maplewood-based manufacturing company 3M. While participating in his church choir, Fry came up with the idea of sticky and removable paper as a bookmark. In 1968, fellow 3M employee Spencer Silver had developed such an adhesive by accident. Combining both, sticky notes were created, leading to a new way to communicate.

Automatic thermostat

Albert Butz developed an automatic damper flapper that controlled the temperature given off by coal furnaces. His company, now Honeywell International, continued to improve on his design, creating the first round thermostat in the 1960s. Today’s “smart thermostat” derived from Butz’s invention.

Nerf ball

St. Paul native Reyn Guyer, the inventor of Twister, came out with the Nerf ball in 1969. During testing of an interactive board game, Guyer and his team ended up throwing around polyurethane foam, a material they used to make the world’s first indoor ball.


SPAM was invented by Hormel Food Corp., an Austin, Minn. company. First coined during the Great Depression, SPAM was created as a way to use wasted parts of the pig and provide an inexpensive meal option. SPAM took over during World War II as a cost-efficient and practical source of food for soldiers.

Mechanical truck refrigeration

Frederick Jones patented over 60 inventions, but he is best known for the truck refrigeration device he invented in 1935. This device revolutionized the transportation industry, allowing for perishable foods to be carried farther distances. The invention led to the start-up of Thermo King, a Minnesota manufacturing company for transport temperature control systems.


Mayo Clinic staff members Edward Kendall, a biochemist, and Philip Hench, a rheumatologist, developed Cortisone, a drug that lowers inflammation and aids in pain relief. It provided an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a crippling disease that previously had no form of relief. The two scientists received the 1950 Nobel Prize for Medicine for their contribution.

Short-season seeds

Early Bear Island, Ojibwe, and Dakota peoples innovated the growth of short-season crops in the harsh climate of Minnesota. They were able to grow soybeans and corn, only a few examples of plants that thrived in the cold climate.


Mayo Clinic’s Dr. David Ahlquist and Wisconsin-based Exact Sciences came up with “Cologuard,” a test that uses DNA technology to detect for colorectal cancer. This less invasive test can be done at home and has proved to be as effective as a traditional colonoscopy.