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Who invented the Slinky?

Learn more about the Slinky, a toy that moves itself down stairs end-over-end.

The Slinky can move down stairs with the force of its own momentum. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The Slinky can move down stairs with the force of its own momentum.

Richard T. James was granted a patent in 1947 for his "toy and process of use." This helical spring toy tumbles smoothly down a flight of stairs when its free end is lifted, rotating about a diameter and quickly dropping to the step below.

Serendipitous Discovery

His invention was the result of a failed attempt to produce an anti-vibration device for ship instruments. Having built a spring that James hoped would instantaneously counterbalance wave motion on a ship, he accidentally knocked one off a shelf, and saw it literally crawl, coil by coil, to a lower shelf, onto a stack of books, down to the tabletop, and finally come to rest, upright, on the floor. James' wife, Betty, saw its potential as a toy and named it "slinky." Betty James still runs James Industries, the company she founded with her husband in 1946 to market the toy Slinky.

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