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How Ralph R. Teetor Overcame Adversity Despite Being Blind


Ralph R. Teetor was born in 1890 and lost his sight at the age of five due to an accident. Despite this, he overcame adversity and became a successful leader and inventor. His most famous invention was the Cruise Control for cars, which he developed in 1945. This invention has saved millions of drivers from accidents and helped our fuel economy over the years. Teetor's story is an inspiration to anyone who faces challenges in their life!




Early life and education

Ralph R. Teetor was born in Hagerstown, Indiana, on August 17, 1890. When he was five years old, he lost his sight in an accident with a knife. Despite this setback, he overcame adversity and went on to lead a successful life. He graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1908, and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912 with a BA in mechanical engineering, followed by a MA in engineering in 1930.




Perfect Circle Company

In the years following his return from World War I, he invented a fluid-actuated gearshift. This invention was sold to Bendix in the 1920s. In 1919, Teetor returned to the family business and focused on the successful piston ring operation and changed the name to the Indiana Piston Ring Company, serving as assistant engineer.


The company’s trade name, Perfect Circle, became so popular that by 1926 the company changed its name to the Perfect Circle Company, with Teetor moving

up to vice president of engineering; then became president from 1946 until 1957; after which he stayed on the board of directors until 1963 when Perfect Circle was sold to Dana Corporation.





Inventing the Cruise Control

Teetor's most famous invention is the Cruise Control, which he patented in 1945. The idea for the device came to him sometime in 1936 while riding in a car with his lawyer, who was constantly speeding up and slowing down. Teetor thought there must be a better way to maintain a constant speed, and set out to invent it.


After years of fine tuning his device, he finally created a working prototype in 1949. The device was first installed in 1958 Chrysler luxury vehicles named Auto-Pilot, followed by Cadillac calling the device Cruise Control, becoming the popular name known around the world.


The device soon became standard equipment on cars and can be argued that this Teetor’s device was the first introduction to “self-driving” and “autonomous

cars, now in the forefront of automotive technology.





Gift to education

Ralph Teetor believed that the gift to education was an investment in a better future. As a result, a gift he made to the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1963, established the Ralph R. Teetor SAE Educational Fund and combined his commitment to education and his lifelong dedication to engineering.


How he overcame adversity

Teetor overcame his blindness by developing a sharp sense of hearing, vibrations, and keen memory, which he used to gauge the speed of objects around him. He also learned to type at an early age, refusing Braille, preferring to be read to. He was able to attend college and earn a degree in engineering. Despite the many challenges he faced, Teetor went on to have a successful career and made significant contributions to the automotive industry.


Teetor learned to walk on his own in Hagerstown, for example, by hearing horse

& buggies, touching a familiar bush, listening to the echoes of footsteps or by counting steps between known landmarks. He could even avoid turn-of-the century traffic hazards.


A colleague from Perfect Circle asked Teetor how much more he might have been able to achieve if he could see. Teetor reflected and said that “I probably couldn't have done as much. I can concentrate, and you can't." What he was saying is that because he wasn't biased by what his eyes saw, there was a "purity" in his work ethic which led to greater success overall.


We can all learn from Teetor's example that it is possible to overcome adversity and achieve success, no matter what challenges we may face in life. Ralph R. Teetor is an inspiration to us all.





Teetor's legacy

Ralph R. Teetor overcame adversity to become a successful industrialist, inventor, engineer, and philanthropist. His most famous invention, cruise control, has made driving more comfortable and safe for millions of people. His story is an inspiration to anyone who has faced challenges in their life. Thanks to his determination and ingenuity, Teetor overcame blindness to become one of the most successful American visionary of his time.


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