Inventors + Inventions from South Carolina

Rice Crispy Treats | Photo by Main Street Children's Museum

Did you know that the man who invented the laser was born + raised in South Carolina

From lasers, sweet tea + free-fall rides, we’ve compiled a list of some of the state’s most interesting inventors + inventions. 🧪

👨🏿‍🌾 George Washington Murray | Sumter County, SC

Murray received patents for various inventions, including the cotton chopper, fertilizer distributor + furrow opener. He also held a seat as the only Black man in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893-1895. Later, he published two books titled “Race Ideals” and “Light in Dark Places.”

🥤 Simmons + Rundell | Charleston, SC

These two inventors are credited with creating soda water in 1810 when they were granted a patent for imitation mineral water. Thanks to them, we now have soft drinks + soda fountains.


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🍋 Sweet Tea | Summerville, SC

A southern delicacy, sweet, iced tea can be traced all the way back to the 1890s, when receipts show Summerville guests purchasing the beverage for a soldier reunion. Now, when visiting the birthplace of sweet, you can also catch a glimpse of the World’s Largest Sweet Tea (200 S. Main St., Summerville), which weighs in at more than 2,500 pounds + measures around 15 feet tall.

👨🏻‍🔬 Charles Townes | Greenville, SC

A recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1964, Dr. Charles Townes spent a lifetime researching microwave physics that ultimately led to his inventions of first the maser – microwave amplification by stimulated emission – and what we now know as the laser. His contributions as a physicist were so great that he has received 27 honorary degrees from several colleges + universities.

🎢 Gerald L. Barber | Greenville, SC

With the help of this South Carolina inventor, we now have free-fall rides like the Tower of Terror at Disney World + Doctor Doom’s Fearfall at Universal Studios. But that’s not all Barber has done – he also owns the patent to the modern wind turbine.

🥣 Vernon Grant | Rock Hill, SC

Rice Krispies cereal is a staple in many cupboards + pantries, and thanks to this innovative artist, the box is decorated with beloved characters Snap, Crackle and Pop. That’s right – in the early 1930s, Vernon Grant teamed up with Kellogg’s to bring the silly little elves to life.

🥤 Blenheim Ginger Ale | Blenheim, SC

Did you know that South Carolina is home to one of the nation’s oldest soda bottling companies? This plant has been distributing bottles of the unique beverage since 1903, but its history dates back to the 1800s when a local doctor served patients mineral water combined with Jamaican ginger to cure stomach pains.

💉 Joseph Burckhalter | Columbia, SC

This Columbia-native created Camoquin (artesunate/amodiaquine), one of the first medicines known to treat malaria. He also helped establish the use of fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC), which now allows doctors to identify diseases such as AIDS, leukemia + lymphoma.