The world has seen some prolific inventors in its day. An interesting way to assess the subject would be via the number of patents by famous inventors.
Patents are an interesting way to measure the success of an inventor. While you may think that the overall number of patents signifies how prolific an inventor was, it doesn’t quite work that way.
A patent just means that the government allows you to have the sole right to make, use or sell an invention. When you have a patent for your invention, nobody else can do anything with it except you for a certain length of time.
What this really means is that with a patent, you have the ability to make money off your invention without facing any competition. The more patents you have, the more chances you have to make money off them.
Because of this, the sheer number of patents doesn’t always translate to greatest inventor. There were plenty of inventors who chose not to patent their ideas, for various reasons.
Number of Patents by Famous Inventors
Of the 4 famous inventors listed in the chart, Thomas Edison by far had the most. 1,093 patents is an astounding amount. One thing to note is that Edison had many people working with him to help get to that number.
Nikola Tesla, his famed counterpart, had a large number himself at 308, though it should be noted that not all these were US patents.
Alexander Graham Bell only had 18 patents, though his invention of the telephone was an extremely important discovery.
Perhaps most interesting is that Benjamin Franklin didn’t have any patents. The man invented dozens of things we use to this day, though never patented any of his discoveries. He believed that his inventions should be freely used by mankind and this never sought to profit off them via a patent.