Monday, July 13, 2009

George Nissen

Like Kerry last week, I also looked at summer fun to find inspiration for today's Hero of Capitalism. I had to look no farther than my neighbor's backyard to find our hero; today, we honor George Nissen for his contribution to modern trampolines.

Nissen first developed the idea for the trampoline in 1934. While visiting a circus, he saw trapeze artists use their safety net as a type of elastic board on which to perform tricks. Nissen was a gymnast and saw the trapeze artists altered net as a way to train for tumbling.

Along with the help of his coach, Larry Griswold, Nissen experimented to develop a similar elastic board. The two men began to use their new invention to help in training with tumblers and in entertaining children at the gymnastic camps they hosted.

Nissen and Griswold began to make trampolines commercially in 1942 when they founded Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company. The trampoline began to be used to help in training with the military's pilots and navigators as well as the space program's astronauts. New games like Slamball, a game similar to basketball, and Bossaball, a game similar to volleyball became popular competitive sports.

Not only did Nissen invent the modern trampoline, but he also holds over 40 patents for the other contributions he has made to the sport and fitness world. With the success of the trampoline, Nissen and his partner continued to expand their business and began producing other gymnastic equipment. The men sold the business in the 1980s, but the work Nissen did continues today. Not only is the trampoline successful as training equipment or a fun backyard activity, but the sport of trampolining became an Olympic event in 2000.

Today we honor Nissen for recognizing a potential sport and new way of training while attending the circus, for developing that idea into a new product, and for successfully marketing that product to consumers. Not only did Nissen find a new way to train in gymnastics for himself, but he helped to transform ideas about tumbling and opened up new possibilities for aviation training, sports training, and recreation.

Wikipedia: Trampoline
Wikipedia: George Nissen
MIT Inventor of the week: George Nissen


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