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Facts : Innovation and Inventions

Creativity and innovation are no strangers to the IUPUI campus. Its rich history in the various fields of health care—medicine, dentistry, nursing—are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to contributing to the evolution and welfare of the 21st century world.

Firsts, bests and more

  • IUPUI is the home of the nation's oldest physical education school. The IU School of Physical Education began life as the Normal College of the American Gymnastic Union in 1866, but became part of the IU system in 1941.
  • IUPUI became the first college to offer college credit classes in a shopping center in 1974 when it launched its innovative "Learn & Shop" program.
  • The campus offers the largest Weekend College program in the nation, with more than 3,200 students enrolled in integrated for-credit classes on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • The IU School of Nursing, headquartered at IUPUI, is the largest nursing school in the country, with more than 8,000 students attending classes on seven IU campuses statewide.
  • IUPUI was the first campus to offer a master's degree program in philanthropic studies, beginning in 1992 through the IU Center on Philanthropy, based at IUPUI.
  • The IU School of Medicine, based at IUPUI, was the first site to develop the use of echocardiography, using sound waves to detect heart disease.
  • The department of medical genetics in the School of Medicine offered the first DNA "bank," storing cells from individuals with genetic disorders.
  • Riley Hospital for Children, based at IUPUI, was the first hospital in the nation to open children's units for parents to stay with their children. It also was the first to establish a "nurture center" for chronically ill infants.
  • IUPUI offered the first computer music lab in the nation, teaching music by computer programs and synthesizers. IUPUI also hosted the first computer music conference in the nation in 1992.
  • The largest urban computer mapping project in the nation - IMAGIS (Indianapolis Mapping and Geographic Infrastructure System) - was created in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Now mainstreamed into the public sector, IMAGIS provides computer maps of all Marion County utilities, roads, buildings and natural features (i.e., rivers and streams) and updates them continuously.


Drunkometer, forerunner to the Breathalyzer - Courtesy of University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-000487n
Dr. Rolla Harger oversees a test of his drunkometer, the forerunner of the modern Breathalyzer.
The Drunk-o-meter

IU professor Rolla Harger invented the drunk-o-meter in 1938 - the very first stable breath-testing instrument to measure alcohol levels. The invention came at a time when alcohol was a major political issue. This was right at the end of the Prohibition era, when the manufacturing, sale and transportation of alcohol were outlawed in the U.S.

To use the drunk-o-meter, the person being tested blew into a balloon. The air in the balloon was then released into a chemical solution. If there was alcohol in the breath, the chemical solution changed color. The greater the color change, the more alcohol in the breath. The level of alcohol in a person's blood could then be estimated by a simple equation.

However, Dr. Harger's invention was bested by another IU alumnus. In 1954, Robert Borkenstein, chairman of Indiana University's department of police administration, invented a more portable tool called the Breathalyzer.

Fighting tooth decay
Joseph C. Muhler, D.D.S., hands out toothpaste samples to Bloomington schoolchildren on Dec. 9, 1952.
Joseph C. Muhler, D.D.S., hands out toothpaste samples to Bloomington schoolchildren (1952).

"Every time you brush your teeth, you owe a debt of gratitude to some IUPUI researchers," Bob Donaldson, a Fox 59 (WXIN) television news anchor, once told his audience during a segment about the Oral Health Research Institute at IUPUI.

Dental school researcher Dr. Joseph Muhler and IU chemistry professors Drs. Harry Day and William Nebergall held the patent on the first successful stannous fluoride formula, which became the active decay-preventing agent in Crest toothpaste in the 1950s. IU made a contractual agreement with Proctor & Gamble to use the patent. The institute has long been known as the "House that Crest Built", as it was funded with royalties earned by P&G's sale of Crest.