Abstract

This article explores the invention and commercialization of mercury and alkaline batteries by independent inventor Samuel Ruben and his licensee, the P. R. Mallory Company, known today as Duracell. During World War II, the Army Signal Corps turned to the National Inventors Council to help them solve operational problems with zinc-carbon batteries; Ruben invented a more reliable mercury battery, which Mallory manufactured. Ruben and Mallory then adapted the cells for peacetime applications like hearing aids, watches, and pacemakers, placing miniature batteries at the vanguard of the postwar miniaturization movement alongside the more heralded transistor. The company later developed cheaper alkaline batteries and modified its marketing strategy, transforming the battery from a component of other products to a consumer product in its own right. Mallory effectively pursued a “mixed innovation strategy,” relying on long-term consulting relationships with outside inventors like Ruben while simultaneously investing in its own scientific research laboratories.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1097-3729
Print ISSN
0040-165X
Pages
pp. 24-57
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-24
Open Access
No
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