Former NASA Engineer Turned Super Soaker Inventor Just Got Very Rich

Lonnie Johnson's having a good week. The former NASA engineer just won $73 million in a royalties dispute with the toymaker Hasbro for inventing the Super Soaker, the coolest toy you ever had growing up. The lawsuit also covered royalties for Nerf which Johnson also masterminded because he is awesome.

This is a happy outcome for many reasons including the fact that Johnson is finally getting the credit he deserves for inventing some of America's favorite toys. Not only did Hasbro violate the royalties arrangement that they themselves agreed to, they did it for years and years, more or less swindling an inventor out of his hard earned reward. As if this giant corporation needed the money which amounted to just a tiny fraction of the profits that toys like Super Soaker and Nerf brought them.


So Lonnie's really rich now. It should be noted that he was pretty rich before, having made an estimated $20 million off of over $1 billion in global sales for the Super Soaker. But once your fortune seeps into the hundreds of millions of dollars, you're in another league. Anybody want to have a Super Soaker fight—with cognac? [AJC via Core77]

The Super Soaker Was Invented by a Former NASA Engineer

Long ago and far away in a place called the 1980s, a man with a dream and a uniquely excellent knowledge of fluid dynamics decided to quit his day job designing rocket ships and design the world's best ever water gun instead. For that, we thank you Lonnie Johnson.

In this weekend's issue, The New York Times Magazine features a brief history of the Super Soaker starring Johnson and his great idea. While it's easy to imagine the Super Soaker being cobbled together from the parts of lesser toys by the Laramie toy company's R&D lab in the dark basement of some Manhattan office building, the actual story of its beginnings are much more humble. Johnson, a former engineer on NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter, built the prototype himself and waltzed into the office to wow the executives, bright pink suitcase and all. As the NYT tells it:

It was a "classic situation" for an inventor, says Lonnie Johnson of the moment in 1989 when he waited nervously for a meeting with toy executives at Larami, a pink Samsonite suitcase on his lap. Inside the suitcase was a new kind of water gun. Instead of a pistol that piddled out a thin stream, this toy was engineered to spray water dozens of feet. "I had bought a milling machine and made all of the parts myself out of PVC pipe and Plexiglas," Johnson says. "Even the valves — I made those too."


From that point on hilarity ensues, and America's youth was never the same. The magazine goes on to detail how Johnson's inspired a new generation of incredibly powerful water gun inventors. It's worth clicking through and reading all about it. Your ten-year-old self will thank you. [NYTM]