Mason was born eighty-eight years ago today, on August 18, 1921, in Trenton, New Jersey (he died four years ago at the age of 84). The former WWII fighter pilot was fired from his corporate engineering job for having the audacity to develop the first pin-free, disposable diaper contoured to a baby's bottom. Among his other inventions: granola bars, squeezable ketchup bottles, dental floss dispensers, foaming toothpaste, and Band-Aid packaging.
But even a great inventor has a few missteps. There was the the single-serving packet of sardines marinated in salad dressing that he developed for the Norwegian government (who would willingly place ready-made, smelly fish products in their lunchbox?). And the failed attempt nearly thirty years ago to convince Congress to make e-fuel from fruit (the nutbag might as well have suggested using beer as fuel).
Mason's true brilliance was his willingness to share the limelight with others, something we could use a little more of in this Internet era, emphasis on the capital I. He believed that product development benefited when there were dozens of hands in the pot, not just one. In 1973, he founded Simco, a small eight-employee research firm with more than 100 consultants on retainer. With them, Mason brainstormed dozens of products into reality. Among others, he developed heat-resistant microwave-safe cookware with the help of a toilet manufacturer (the expertise in shatter-proof ceramics proved essential) and the underwire bra with Playtex. Then he left it to Brooke Shields and Victoria's Secret to turn Tupperware and push-up bras into something else entirely. Think of it as 1970's-era re-Tweeting.