Meet Auburn’s Prolific Inventor

Miller Reese Hutchison. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Born in Montrose in 1876, Miller Reese Hutchison led a life of continuous innovation and became one of the South’s most prolific inventors. By the time of his death in 1944, Hutchison had more than 1,000 patents to his name.

While he began developing electrical products during his time at Auburn University, Hutchison is perhaps most widely known for inventing the first electrical hearing aid. The device, originally developed to restore a long-time friend’s hearing, spread around the world and earned Hutchison the praise of medical experts and European royalty.

In the early 1900s, as motorized transportation became more common, Hutchison saw an urgent need for louder traffic warnings. His answer was the cacophonous Klaxon horn. The battery-powered horn’s famous “Ah-oo-gah” sound was much more alarming than previous horns and prompted a more immediate response from other motorists and pedestrians.

Hutchison’s achievements drew the attention of Thomas Edison, who brought him into his fold for consulting in 1910. Two years later, Hutchison become chief engineer of the West Orange laboratory in New Jersey. While with Edison’s laboratory, he worked with the U.S. Navy to supply submarines with the lab’s storage battery.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox