July 13, 2011 was the 175th anniversary of the granting of U.S. patent no. 1, issued to Senator John Ruggles of Thomaston, Maine. Senator Ruggles was chair of the Committee on Patents and the Patent Office and the chief framer of the 1836 Patent Act, which came into force on July 4. The Act abolished the old patent registration system that had been in force since 1793 and re-introduced an examination system based on novelty and non-obviousness. Senator Ruggle's invention was a wheel traction system for steam locomotives. It has been cited in several patents including US 6,725,751, issued in 2004 for a "rotary punching apparatus".
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.