Lonnie G. Johnson, the Air force former engineer and NASA who invented world-famous super soaker water gun

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Lonnie G Johnson

Who is Lonnie Johnson

Born in Alabama in 1949, African-American engineer and inventor Lonnie G. Johnson. He graduated from Tuskegee University with a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and went on to work for the U.S. The NASA space program and the Air Force. Johnson’s Super Soaker became a top-selling item in the early 1990s after tinkering with the invention of a high-powered water gun. He has since developed the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC), an engine that directly transforms heat into electricity that Johnson considers as the route to low-cost solar power.

Lonnie Johnson Invention

The U.S. joined the Super Soaker Lonnie G. Johnson. Air Force, becoming a key part of the science institution of government. He was appointed to the Strategic Air Command, where he helped to create the program of stealth bomber. Johnson went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA in 1979 and worked as a system engineer for Jupiter Galileo mission and the Cassini mission to Saturn, back to the Air Force in 1982.

Despite his busy days, in his spare moment, Johnson kept pursuing his own inventions. One of his long-standing pet projects was an eco-friendly heat pump using water instead of Freon. Finally, one night in 1982, Johnson finished a prototype and chose to test it in his bathroom. He tried to point the nozzle into his bath, pulled the lever and blasted into the bath a strong stream of water. Johnson’s instantaneous and instinctive response has been sheer pleasure since it was shared by millions of children around the globe.

In 1989 Johnson lastly sold his machine to the Larami Corporation after another seven years of tinkering and tireless sales-pitching, during which he left the Air Force to go into company for himself. Initially, the “Power Drencher” did not create much of a commercial effect, but the “Super Soaker” became a massively effective item after extra marketing efforts and a name change. It peaked $200 million in revenues in 1991, and ranked among the top 20 best-selling toys in the world every year. It peaked $200 million in revenues in 1991, and ranked among the top 20 best-selling toys in the world every year.

The Lonnie Johnson Thermoelectric Energy

Lonnie G. Johnson, driven by the Super Soaker’s achievement, established Johnson Research & Development and acquired dozens of patents. Some of his inventions have accomplished business success, including a ceramic battery and heat-free hair rollers. Others have failed to catch on, including a diaper that performs a nursery rhyme when soiled. With the creation of the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC), the engineer sought to develop an advanced heat engine capable of converting solar energy into electricity twice the efficiency of existing methods. He thought that a successful JTEC version had the ability to compete with coal for solar power, fulfilling the dream of effective, renewable solar electricity.

Initially spurred by his pitches, Johnson finally got much-needed financing from the Air Force to continue working on his project. In 2008, Johnson was awarded the JTEC invention Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics. He lately worked for further growth with the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California. Lonnie G. Johnson, who left the Air Force, was one of the rare breeds of scientists: an independent inventor working outside the scientific establishment. Johnson would still go down as one of his generation’s most successful inventors and entrepreneurs if he had retired upon patenting the Super Soaker. 

However, if he succeeds in perfecting the JTEC, as one of the seminal figures of the continuing green technology revolution, Johnson will carve out a much higher position in history. The National Science Foundation’s Paul Werbos summed up Johnson’s enormous job: “This is a whole new technology family. … It’s like discovering a new continent. You don’t understand what’s there, but you certainly want to explore it to find out. … It’s a darn nice opportunity to be the best thing on Earth.”

Lonnie Johnson early Life, Family & Education

Lonnie George Johnson was born in Mobile, Alabama, on October 6, 1949. His dad was a veteran of the Second World War who worked as a civilian driver at neighboring bases of the Air Force, while his mom worked as a laundry and nurse. Both parents of Johnson also picked cotton on his grandfather’s farm during the summers.

Johnson’s dad was a qualified handyman who taught his six kids how to construct their own toys out of both interest and financial necessity. He and his father constructed a pressurized chinaberry shooter out of bamboo shoots when Johnson was still a little kid. At the age of 13, Johnson connected a lawnmower engine to a go-kart he constructed from scraps of junkyards and drove it along the highway to the police pulled him over.

Johnson dreamed of becoming a renowned inventor and became more curious about how things worked and more ambitious in his experimentation during his adolescent years— sometimes to the detriment of his family. “Lonnie tore up the baby doll of his sister to see what closed his eyes,” his mom recalled later. Another time, when he tried to boil the rocket, he almost burned the house down when he attempted to cook up rocket fuel in one of his mother’s saucepans and the concoction exploded.

Johnson grew up in Mobile during the days of legal segregation and attended Williamson High School, an all-black school where, despite his precocious intelligence and creativity, he was told not to aspire as a technician beyond a profession. However, inspired by the story of George Washington Carver, the famous African-American inventor, Johnson persevered in his dream of becoming an inventor. 

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his high school friends, Johnson represented his school at a Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) sponsored science fair in 1968. The fair was held at Tuscaloosa University of Alabama, where Governor George Wallace had attempted to avoid two black learners from enrolling in the college by standing in the auditorium doorway just five years ago.

Johnson, the only black student in the competition, debuted a compressed-air-powered robot, called “the Linex,” which he had painfully built over the course of a year from junkyard scraps. Johnson won first award much to the chagrin of college officials. “The only thing that anybody from the university told us during the whole contest,” Johnson later recalled, “was ‘ Goodbye ‘ and ‘ Y’all drive safe now. “

Johnson attended Tuskegee University on a scholarship after graduating with the last segregated class of Williamson in 1969. He obtained a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree in 1973, and two years later he obtained from the college a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. 

Lonnie Johnson Personal

Johnson is a board chairman of the Georgia Alliance for Children and a member of Atlanta’s 100 Black Men, an organisation that mentors high school and college learners, along with his pioneering science job and inventions. He was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame State in 2011.

Johnson got a settlement of $73 million from Hasbro Inc. in 2013, which had purchased Larami Corp ten years previously. From 2007 to 2012, the inventor had sought extra royalty payments.

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Johnson has four kids with his wife, Linda Moore. They live in Atlanta, Georgia’s Ansley Park neighborhood.


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Citation Information

Article Title

Lonnie G. Johnson Biography


Adebayo M. Tayo

Website Name

The Africhroyale.com website

Access Date

August 16, 2019


A&E Television Networks

Last Updated

June 22, 2019

Original Published Date

April 2, 2014

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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