Ralph Teetor-Inventor of Cruise Control

Ralph Teetor overcame blindness to become successful as an engineer, manufacturing executive and entrepreneur.
Ralph Teetor

Ralph Teetor
Copyright © 1995 Marjorie Teetor Meyer
Ralph Teetor, long-time president of Perfect Circle Corporation in Hagerstown, Indiana, was inspired to invent cruise control one day while riding with his lawyer. The lawyer would slow down while talking and speed up while listening. This rocking motion so annoyed Teetor that he was determined to invent a speed control device. Cruise control debuted in 1958 on the Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor models.

There is an important side note regarding Teetor. He was blinded in a shop accident at the age of five. The accident changed the gifted boy’s life forever. But he was able to accomplish many things. In 1902, for example, when he was twelve, Teetor built an automobile with the help of his cousin. They rebuilt a discarded engine and machined each part by hand.

Ralph went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912 in the top third of his class. This feat astonished the faculty because they originally thought that he couldn’t do the required work. Ralph’s adaptations and keen mechanical ability served him well in college and throughout his professional career.

Ralph’s highly developed sense of touch proved its advantage in developing a technique for balancing steam turbine rotors used in torpedo-boat destroyers. Dynamic balancing of large components had puzzled others before Ralph solved the problem.

As a grown man, Teetor preferred never to discuss his blindness. He managed to live his life almost as if it had never happened and went on to become successful as an engineer, manufacturing executive and entrepreneur.

Teetor was posthumously inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1988 for his numerous contributions to the industry.

I recommend the following book on Ralph Teetor: One Man’s Vision: The Life of Automotive Pioneer Ralph R. Teetor, by Marjorie Teetor Meyer, ISBN 1878208675 for more information.

Back to: Pioneers – a look at the people involved in Indiana automotive history


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