Past winners


The Affordable Residential Smoke Alarm
Lyman BlackwellLyman L. Blackwell was awarded the 2015 Philip J. DiNenno Prize for his key technological role in development of the affordable home smoke alarm which first hit the marketplace in the early 1970’s. Since then the fraction of American homes equipped with smoke alarms has risen from less than 4% to 94% and American fire deaths have been cut in half. 

Technical developments usually evolve from a continuum of work performed by many investigators, inventors and entrepreneurs – each improving on the works of others. But sometimes an individual or cluster of workers makes a commitment to game-changing innovation and overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This happened in the 1960’s when entrepreneur Duane Pearsall and engineer/inventor Lyman Blackwell set out to “make a battery-powered detector so inexpensive and easy to install that every household could afford one." Assisted by team members like staff engineer Paul Staby, they began to realize their goal when the new battery-powered home smoke alarm hit the marketplace in 1972. Duane Pearsall is deceased and as such is not be eligible to posthumously share the prize with his compatriot Lyman Blackwell. about the Learn more about the impact on public safety and development of the affordable residential smoke alarm.