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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

History of the TIA


By:  Martin J. Skinner, Sr.,   August 9, 2008

Recently several members of TIA have shown interest in when TIA was organized.  Since all of the known records of TIA are in a filing cabinet in the basement of my house, I began a search for history-type information.  The following is what was found.  It is possible that someone may have additional information; if they do, please correspond with me.

Initially the earliest document seemed to be a letter, dated April 1983,  that was circulated inviting interested persons to come to a meeting on May 21, 1983 at the Quality Inn (now Marriott).  That organizational meeting was subsequently held.  Was that the beginning?  Consider what follows and make up your mind.

First, that letter was written on stationary with a heading “Tennessee Inventors Association”.  Further, the letter says “The purpose of TIA (formerly Appalachian Inventors Group) ….”  Also, the letter refers to the formation of the National Council of Inventor Organizations (NCIO).  I think it was “Congress” rather than “Council”, but that is beside the point.  That organization came into being February 5, 1982.  Bob Pitts attended the meeting in Washington, DC at which that occurred.  TIA is listed as a Charter Member of NCIO, so, in name, did TIA exist back in 1982?  It surely did in name, at least.

Before exploring what transpired after the “organizational” meeting of TIA on May 21, 1983, let’s look back at the reference to the Appalachian Inventors Group (see above).  This group was really known at Scientists and Engineers for Appalachia (SEA).  It was founded in Berea, KY by students most of whom came to work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  In fact, the SEA held an annual meeting (I think their second) in Oak Ridge at the Civic Center in 1972.  At that meeting there was an inventor’s exhibition.  SEA was a nonprofit association whose principal objective was to provide a medium whereby advances in science and technology may be utilized toward the enrichment of life in Appalachia.  Does this sound familiar to the goal of TIA?

As a result of the success of that exhibition, a group of SEA members formed the core of a committee to continue the practice.  I was on that committee since I was the head of the ORNL Patent Section.  The committee also included members familiar with technology transfer, etc.  They chose the name “Appalachian Inventors Fair”.  They used information about other inventor’s exhibitions – like the Minnesota Inventors Congress.  I had attended the MIC to get ideas.  Considerable assistance was given by Isaac Fleischmann at the U. S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The first Fair was held April 18-19, 1975 in the Museum of Science and Engineering (then American Museum of Atomic Energy.  The principal speaker was Prof. Harold E. Edgerton, inventor of the stroboscope.  The inventor exhibits were judged in several classes, including “Best of Show”, and plaques were given to the winners.  Appalachian Inventors Fair No. 2 was held on April 22-24, 1976 using the same format at the Museum.  The guest speaker was Dr. Rudolph Schrils, Director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UK.

With growth indicating that the Museum did not have enough space, Fair No. 3 (1977) was held at the Oak Ridge Civic Center in June.  Little is recorded about that Fair except that the four top winners of the District Science Fair in Knoxville were our guests with their exhibits.  Apparently there were too many conflicting activities that reduced participation by inventors.  Thus, Fair No. 4 was again held back in the Museum on April 28-30, 1978.  There is no record of a principal speaker.  Fair No. 5 was again held at the Museum on April 27-29, 1979.  At all of these Fairs there were seminars for inventors on several topics. They concluded with an Awards Breakfast.

Almost the exact people were involved in planning and running these Appalachian Inventors Fairs.  Several years I was Chairman.  When it came to considering a Fair for 1980, there was not enough enthusiasm to do the planning.  Thus, these events came to an end.

I retired from Union Carbide at the end of 1980.  I then went to work for Pitts & Kesterson (now Pitts & Brittian) in February or March 1981.  I took with me the idea of an inventor’s exhibition and presented it to Bob Pitts.  Someh