Encryption, Lycra, Organ Transplant Technology and Other World-Changing Inventions Inducted Into Hall of Fame

A visitor to the CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January walks through a 5G wireless broadband technology display. The National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct several new members in May, including the creators of significant technological advances. Steve Marcus/Reuters

Rockers, baseball players and country music singers have halls of fame, so why shouldn't the people who enrich, simplify and sometimes save our lives have one too? Well, they do: The National Inventors Hall of Fame, located in North Canton, Ohio (a museum is in Alexandria, Virginia), honors 15 inventors every year. The 46th Annual Induction Ceremony, taking place on May 3, will include the following inductees, whose brain power helped shape our world.

High Wireless Act

For mobile access to the internet, you can thank Arogyaswami Paulraj, a professor emeritus at Stanford. In the early 1990s, he patented MIMO wireless technology, a system that uses multiple antennas to send and receive signals, increasing the data that a long-term evolution wireless network or home wireless router can handle.

Safety in Numbers

RSA, the public-key encryption that keeps credit card information private during online purchases, exists because of Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. Their system of cryptography uses two prime numbers and several mathematical equations to encrypt and decrypt messages. It is best known for those "SecurID" fobs that generate a changing, six-figure sequence.

A credit card payment terminal in New York, 2015. This year's inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame include the people behind RSA, the public-key encryption that keeps credit cards safe during online purchases. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Seeing the Light

The iPhone X is one of the first devices to use organic light-emitting diodes in its screen. The diodes, invented by Ching Wan Tang and Steven Van Slyke while they were scientists at Kodak, are made of carbon-based semiconductors that glow when charged particles run through them. Because OLEDs use less power than the more common liquid-crystal displays, they could help a device's battery last longer.

An Apple iPhone X with new emoji features after sales began at a London store in November 2017. Organic light-emitting diodes, used in high-end televisions, were among the new features introduced with the device. Chris J. Ratcliffe/AFP/Getty Images

A Tighter Squeeze

Hair metal bands and Cher can thank Joseph Shivers Jr., then a chemist at DuPont, for inventing and patenting Lycra (the brand name for spandex) in 1962. It replaced the threads of rubber used in bras and girdles.

A visitor to 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 9, 2018, walking through a 5G wireless broadband technology display. Steve Marcus/Reuters

Transplant Matchmaker

The cells that make up an organ have proteins on the surface, and if a surgeon transplants that organ into someone with different proteins on his or her cells, problems can arise—including death. Paul Terasaki, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, made the process a lot more precise in 1964, with the invention of a micro test that identifies the proteins on a cell's surface. "It was the most important thing I did," said Terasaki, who lived in a U.S. internment camp with ­his family during World War II. He died in 2016.

Courtesy of Inventors Hall of Fame; Photo illustration by Gluekit