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How a Nuclear Engineer’s Happy Accident Forever Changed Squirt Guns

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He made this discovery that would change his life and the future of water gun toys.

In 1982 Lonnie Johnson says he “was working on a new type of heat pump for refrigerators and air conditioners that used water instead of toxic Freon. I was machining some nozzles and experimenting and shot some streams of water across my bathroom. I started thinking myself geez, this would make a neat water gun.” He then built a prototype out of Plexiglas, PVC piping and a two-liter soda bottle.

Johnson has been working on a myriad of other inventions since the “Super Soaker” made him famous. He’s gotten back to his original idea of an environmentally friendly refrigeration system, he’s developed a battery he believes can make electric cars more practical and is researching a new way to generate energy from the sun. Despite the more than 100 patents he holds, though, his name will forever be tied to a toy gun. And given the vast success of his “Super Soakers”, he’s perfectly okay with that.


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“How a Nuclear Engineer’s Happy Accident Forever Changed Squirt Guns”