Who wears Hawaiian print shirts, loves donkeys, and has nearly 1500 patents? Frederick Shelton IV

July 07, 2021

Did you ever get staples instead of stitches? If you did, it’s because staples are faster for the doctor and safer for the patient than sutures. 

And one man stands above all others in the surgical stapling world: Frederick Shelton IV from Johnson & Johnson. He is one of the world’s most prolific inventors and has worked for J&J for over 20 years, according to this 2019 article

Four of Shelton’s top five most recently published patents involve staplers: 

  1. Circular Stapling System Comprising Rotary Firing System
  2. Closure System Arrangements For Surgical Cutting And Stapling Devices With Separate And Distinct Firing Shifts
  3. Surgical Cutting And Stapling End Effector With Anvil Concentric Drive Member
  4. Method Of Applying A Buttress To A Surgical Stapler End Effector
  5. Powered Surgical Instrument With Independent Selectively Applied Rotary And Linear Drivetrains

Many of his patents involve surgical instruments. In 2019, he had 250 surgical instrument patents published, and that number went down only slightly in 2020. So far this year, he has 123 surgical instrument patents published- and could be on track to reach over 200 again. Shelton’s other top areas of focus are robotic surgery and robot end effectors

The area chart below shows the tags and publication dates of Shelton’s patents since 2017. Surgical instruments outnumber other areas.

Frederick Shelton IV’s patents from 2017-present by tag and publication date (data as of July 2, 2021)Frederick Shelton IV’s patents from 2017-present by tag and publication date (data as of July 2, 2021)

This Network Graph shows the connections- and the degree of connections- between Shelton, other inventors, and invention areas. 

Network Graph showing the connections- and the degree of connections- between Shelton, other inventors, and invention areas.Shelton is clearly at the forefront of patent development- particularly when it comes to surgical instruments and surgical staples. The next time you get surgical staples, you can probably assume Shelton had a hand in it.


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Lesley Pink

Lesley Pink, our senior digital editor/writer, has written across a range of industries including artificial intelligence, actuarial science, government, law, and financial journalism. She's a fan of the serial comma and mint chocolate chip ice cream. And no, pink is not her favorite color. You can reach Lesley at lesley@resolute.ai.