Peoria Journal Star

February 9, 2006

Caterpillar founder to be honored
Holt will be inducted in National Inventors Hall of Fame

By Dori Meinert
OF Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The late Benjamin Holt, the founder of Caterpillar and the inventor of tractors with tracks instead of wheels, will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, officials announced here Wednesday.

Holt is one of 13 inventors being recognized posthumously this year. Eight living inventors also will be inducted into the Hall of Fame located in Akron, Ohio, at a ceremony this May.

The announcement of the 2006 inductees was made on Capitol Hill by the nonprofit National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. The living inventors being honored include Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who are often referred to as "fathers of the Internet," and Robert Gore, who invented the material now known by the GORE-TEX brand name valued by outdoor enthusiasts but also used in medical and industrial products.

Each of the inventors chosen made "a tremendous difference, a life-changing, altering differ-ence to all of us in America and throughout the world," said Jon Dudas, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Holt, who died in 1920, was inspired by the plight of California farmers whose tractors would sink into the soft, muddy soil. He designed the track-laying system to disperse weight and provide better traction, producing the prototype of the first practical track-type tractor in 1904. A photographer who documented one of the first successful tests of the new tractor dubbed it the "caterpillar," inspiring the company's name.

"He set the standard for what we have to do from now forward," said Robert T. Williams, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the company's flagship track-type tractors division, who attended Wednesday's announcement.

The Peoria-based company has launched an inventor award program of its own to recognize engineers who acquire 15 or more patents during their Caterpillar careers. Caterpillar has more than 3,800 inventors who have contributed to more than 6,800 granted U.S. patents for Caterpillar, including 1,200 patents in the last five years.

As of last year, 235 inventors have been recognized by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1973 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association. Inventors must hold a U.S. patent to be considered, and the invention must have promoted the progress of science and the useful arts. The Hall of Fame building in Akron is open to the public.

Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or