What's the Difference Between an Inventor and a Scientist?

Inventors patent products as scientists publish discoveries.
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Inventors focus on ways to manifest a result by developing new products. Scientists focus on answering big questions by observing nature’s processes, and finding paths of thinking and experimentation that will lead to breakthroughs in the way we understand certain things. Inventors and scientists have some official differences, but share traits as well.


An inventor brings an idea into physical manifestation as an original invention, which can then be patented. In the United States, someone who invents an original device, formula, machine or chemical compound can apply for a patent. The inventor must have contributed directly to the invention’s physical creation, and have the dominant intellectual understanding of how the invention works and its purpose. Getting a patent prevents others from legally copying or using your invention. Patents can last up to 20 years, after which the invention becomes public domain. Inventors contribute to progress in nearly all industries, and to individuals’ wellness and lifestyles, through their technological, medical, chemical and material inventions.


A scientist methodically pursues an explanation of how some aspect of the natural world works. By observing things as they happen, testing hypotheses through experiments and evaluating results, a scientist seeks to control parts of nature in ways that can be verified and replicated by other scientists. Mathematics is key to successful science.


The difference between an inventor and a scientist is mainly the results they each produce. Inventing requires patenting while making a scientific discovery does not. Scientists can contribute to research that leads to an invention, but an inventor is considered the chief creator of the concept and physical prototype of the invention. As a scientist, you can work your entire career without patenting anything, but you aren’t legally considered an inventor without having your name on at least one patent at some point in your career.


Both inventors and scientists are problem solvers working to provide solutions and improve people’s lives. Research and development is important to inventors and scientists alike. Many scientists become inventors -- especially when their research on a particular subject leads to an idea for a technology that can put what is being studied into practical use. Inventors apply the scientific method as they go to the drawing board again and again, testing and re-thinking until they reach that eureka moment where an invention is complete.

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