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The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker

Summer is here, which means it’s time to break out the super soaker. Smithsonian takes a dive into how Lonnie Johnson invented it.

You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber.

Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for film lithium batteries, electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps, therminonic generators and various items to enhance battery production, including a thin-film ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. In addition to serious-science inventions, Johnson has also patented such versatile and amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, toy rocket launcher and Nerf Blasters. Yes, that rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us to mount ambushes on unsuspecting relatives and pets.

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