Can you guess who they are?
By AEM and Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image of John Deere plow c. 1845 via Wikipedia
With the nomination process for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) Hall of Fame accepting new nominations for 2022 underway—submit yours HERE—let’s look at the three oldest and youngest members among the 66 inductees who have contributed to the industry.
The age range is wide, with 158 years separating the birthdates of the oldest and youngest Hall of Fame members. Can you guess who they are?
3. Ronald M. DeFeo – Chairman & CEO, Terex Corporation – Born July 1952; Inducted 2008
Ten years after Terex Corporation was purchased from original owner General Motors in 1986, DeFeo was appointed chairman and Chief Executive Officer, expanding the company portfolio significantly through his tenure which lasted until 2003.
Via DeFeo’s leadership, Terex added Powerscreen, CMI Roadbuilding, Genie Industries, and Tatra under its umbrella, and grew an average of 27 percent per year.
2. Ray O’Connor – President & CEO, Topcon Positioning Group – Born March 1962; Inducted 2013
While O’Connor is, and remains, the youngest member of the AEM Hall of Fame at the time of induction, at just 52 years old, one other member is younger overall, if only slightly so.
O’Connor joined Topcon in 1993 with a goal of automating the construction industry. By being a leader in merging imaging, GNSS, scanning and software technologies, hardly a construction site on the globe exists without some degree of positioning automation. For O’Connor, it’s all about conserving the world’s most unrenewable resource: time.
1. Bryn Fosburgh – Senior Vice President, Trimble, Inc. – Born September 1962; Inducted 2021
The AEM Hall of Fame’s youngest member at the time of induction, at 51 years old, is also its most recent.
Born in 1962 in northern Wisconsin, Fosburgh would go on to co-develop real-time kinematic (RTK) technology, which is what allows the GPS device in your phone (or car, or tractor, or excavator) to know exactly where you are, within centimetres, in real time.
In addition to his innovative global positioning work, Fosburgh has also used his abilities to both train future engineers at universities in Western Africa and help with severe earthquake recovery efforts in Japan and China.
3. Simon Ingersoll – Founder, Ingersoll-Rand Company – Born March 1818; Inducted 1993
Just because someone is already more than 200 years old doesn’t mean they’re the oldest.
Inducted in 1993 in the very first class of the AEM Hall of Fame, Simon Ingersoll was already 53 years old when he patented his first steam-powered rock drill in 1871, decades before gasoline or diesel engines would be available to power work on jobsites.
Born in Stanwich, Connecticut, he was a farmer, and in his spare time an inventor.
He patented many things, including a steam engine shaft in 1858. Although he developed a steam-powered car, and things like a scale, a friction clutch, and a gate latch, those patents went to others.
Inventing ain’t easy, so he continued to farm to support his family.
His steam-powered percussion drill replaced hand drilling, making mining and tunneling much faster and cheaper. Before Ingersoll’s invention, drilling was done by pounding a steel rod repeatedly with a sledgehammer. The Ingersoll drill rotated the drill after each strike, automatically advancing the steel rod. His design also featured an innovative tripod – no need to have fingers smashed – and was lighter than other drills of the day. Steam operation was later advanced to run on compressed air.
Despite his contributions to the mining and construction industries (the basis of his percussion drill is still used today), and the sale of his patents, Ingersoll would die penniless in 1894 at the age of 76.
2. William Smith Otis – Inventor, Steam Shovel – Born September 1813; Inducted 1996
William Smith Otis is a tragic example of those who burn-brightest-burn-fastest.
Born in 1813 in Pelham, Massachusetts, Otis was a cousin of elevator inventor Elisha Graves Otis (see how many elevators today bear the name Otis).
William Otis created a steam-powered mechanical excavator when he was just 22. Though the patent drawing has gone missing, a purported copy shows the crane mounted atop a railroad car. The patent describes how a steam engine was installed with a power control mechanism for the crane, and a system of pulleys to move its arms and bucket. It could move about 380 cubic meters of earth a day, with its 1.1 cubic meter capacity shovel and 180° slewing wooden jib. It was first used on the Western Railroad in Massachusetts.
Otis was finally granted Patent No. 1,089 on February 24, 1839, and would die less than nine months later on November 13, 1839, of typhoid fever at the age of just 26.
1. John Deere – Founder, Deere & Co. – Born February 1804; Inducted 2012
In February of this year, John Deere, inventor of the self-scouring plow and founder of the company to bear his (full) name, would have turned 218 years old, making him the oldest member of the AEM Hall of Fame. And at 208 years old, Deere is also the oldest member at the time of his induction in 2012.
Having grown up working in his father’s tailor shop in Rutland, Vermont, Deere’s father taught him that, by polishing the sewing needles in sand, they would pass through the cloth more easily. After moving to Grand Detour, Illinois and working as a blacksmith and then as a general handyman, he heard the horror stories of the ‘worthless’ midwestern soil that could only grow grass and was too sticky to be plowed.
At the time, most farmers used iron or wooden plows—but the rich Midwestern soil stuck to it meaning the equipment had to be cleaned often.
In 1827, at just 23 years old, Deere would create his first cast iron plow with a polished, cast steel share.
By 1837-8, he used a Scottish steel saw blade a cast it into a plow, selling that to a local farmer, who recommended it to his friends. John Deere started taking its first orders, and hasn’t stopped since.
The smooth-sided steel plow solved this stickiness problem of plows made of other substrate, which greatly aided migration into the American Great Plains in the 19th and early 20th centuries—making it “easier” to farm the land.
How to Nominate an Industry Pioneer for the AEM Hall of Fame
If you know of someone who should be in the AEM Hall of Fame but isn’t yet, nominations are open until June 17, 2022, and can be submitted online at this link: https://www.aem.org/about/hall-of-fame/nomination-form.
Tips for how to submit a nomination with a better chance of success are available here: https://www.aem.org/AEM/media/docs/Press/How-to-Submit-Better-Hall-of-Fame-Nominations.pdf.
AEM seeks nominations for both current-day innovators as well as those who are no longer with us who made a difference in the industry.
About the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)
AEM is the North America-based international trade group representing off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers with more than 1,000 companies and more than 200 product lines in the agriculture and construction-related industry sectors worldwide. The equipment manufacturing industry in the US supports 2.8 million jobs and contributes roughly $288 billion to the economy every year. More information ca be found at https://www.aem.org.