If it weren't for Henry Timken, it might not be so easy to turn a corner in your car.
Tapered roller bearings help reduce friction between a car's axles and its wheels. They enable the wheels to bear heavy loads from the side as the car turns.
Timken, creator of the tapered roller bearing and founder of Timken Co. a century ago, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame during a recent ceremony in Akron, Ohio.
'It's such a basic invention, but it has been important to the manufacturing process from very early on,' said Hall of Fame spokesman Tom Hollingsworth.
Timken's bearing concept has been refined over the years, but his original design has remained the foundation for the tapered bearing industry, said Ward Timken, vice president of the company.
'He has helped us to look ahead,' he said. 'The company has produced bearings to haul big loads, and they have helped reduce energy requirements.'
Today, Timken of Canton, Ohio, manufactures bearings as small as a fingertip and as large as six feet.
Besides cars, tapered roller bearings are used in trains, conveyors, elevators, aircraft engines and space shuttle landing gear.
Timken was born in Bremen, Germany, on Aug. 16, 1831. Following the death of his mother, he and the rest of his family moved to the United States and settled on a farm near St. Louis.
He left the farm at age 16 to become a wagon apprentice. By the time he was 24, he owned a carriage factory.
During his career, Timken received 12 carriage-related patents. But one issue perplexed him and other carriage makers: how to ease the thrust and radial loads on the carriage axles, which had to support heavy loads as they turned on crude roads.
Timken began work on a device that would solve that problem. He received two patents in 1898 for his tapered roller-bearing design. The following year, he formed Timken Roller Bearing Axle Co.
Seeing the potential of the fledgling automobile industry, Timken encouraged his sons to move the company to Canton to be closer to the automotive steel hubs in Detroit and Pittsburgh.
'Henry once said, 'Don't set your name to anything you will ever have cause to be ashamed of.' The Timken roller bearing has helped improve living standards all over the world,' said W.R. Timken Jr., CEO of the company.
'He would be pleased to know that the Timken brand is now recognized and respected globally and is associated closely with quality, reliability and precision.'