Alumni Hall of Fame

Frederick Grinnell
Frederick Grinnell
Inducted September 2001

Frederick Grinnell

Class of 1855
Pioneer in Fire Safety

Inventor, engineer, and industrialist, Frederick Grinnell was the creator of the first practical automatic fire sprinkler, which has made an enormous contribution to fire safety.

Earlier in his career, he was draftsman, construction engineer, and manager for various railroad manufacturers. He designed and built more than 100 locomotives.

In 1869 he purchased a controlling interest in a company that manufactured fire-extinguishing apparatus. Grinnell licensed a sprinkler device patented by Henry S. Parmelee, then worked to improve the invention, and in 1881 patented the automatic sprinkler that bears his name. He continued to improve the device and in 1890 invented the glass disc sprinkler, essentially the same as that in use today.

He secured some 40 distinct patents for improvements on his sprinklers and invented a dry pipe valve and automatic fire-alarm system as well.

In 1892, Grinnell organized the General Fire Extinguisher Co., an amalgamation of several smaller companies, which became the foremost organization in its field of manufacture. Today the Grinnell Fire Protection Co. is a part of Tyco International Ltd.