The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is planning an important new exhibition, American Enterprise, which will open in the spring of 2015. Chronological in organization, the exhibition will use objects, graphics, and interactive experiences to examine how the United States moved from a small dependent nation to one of the world’s most vibrant and trend-setting economies. Visitors will learn that with few barriers to individual opportunity, a tradition of relentless innovation, an environment of fierce competition, and a widespread commitment to common good, the United States economy has expanded more quickly than other economies over a longer period of time.
Google "Corkboard" Server, 1999
In 1998 Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google, a web-search company, in a garage in Menlo Park, California.
To maximize searching at the lowest cost, Page and Brian built thirty racks of servers, including this one, from cheap parts. Each server row used corkboard insulating pads—hence the name—and had eight 22-gigabyte hard drives and four personal computers. Because components frequently failed, the system required effective fault-tolerant software.
From this modest, but highly innovative, beginning, Page and Brian built one of the largest and most influential information companies in the world.
Mayo-Gibbon Heart-Lung Machine, about 1957
The invention of the heart-lung—or cardiopulmonary bypass—machine is one of the most significant contributions in the history of cardiac surgery. Introduced in 1955, the Mayo-Gibbon heart-lung machine was the first commercially produced bypass machine. The Mayo Clinic's Dr. John Kirklin collaborated with colleagues to develop this machine based on Dr. John Gibbon's blueprints from his earlier design.
The machine takes over the heart's function, keeping the patient's damaged heart dry as oxygenated blood circulates through the body during surgery. The heart-lung machine allowed for longer, more complicated cardiac surgeries, and paved the way for artificial heart valves and heart transplants.
Unprecedented federal government funding—combined with major advances in medical research, practices, and materials during World War II—spurred rapid medical innovation. In the 1950s Minnesota became a medical place of invention centered on two institutions—the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
These pioneering healthcare organizations gained fame for inventive medical technologies and techniques. They were supported by a tight-knit community of experienced leaders, highly skilled medical professionals and engineers, and visionary investors and entrepreneurs. The region's growing medical-device industry came to be known as "Medical Alley."
Gift of Edwards Life Sciences