Dr. Elbert Dysart Botts (1893-1962) was a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employee. Sound exciting? I think it does.
You probably didn’t know, but Dr. Botts is kind of the man. So much of a man, in fact, that he invented something you probably see almost every day. Ever heard of a Botts’ dot? No, it’s not a candy. It’s way better – it’s a non-reflective pavement marker!
Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain a little bit. Botts’ dots are those small raised bumps that help to designate lanes on highways. But this post isn’t about the dots, it’s about Botts. Born in Missouri, Botts was a chemistry professor before being recruited by Caltrans. That probably makes him one of the only people to ever have such a “distinction” (I use that term very loosely). But Botts made the best of it. He led the Caltrans laboratory division responsible for conducting research on the best shapes and materials for raised pavement markers. Thank god he didn’t choose rhombuses. Or dodecagons. Or nonagons, for that matter.
Although the initial goal of the division was to improve lane visibility, the group soon discovered that the dots were great for providing tactile feedback to drivers who veered slightly in their lanes.
Botts unfortunately died before his invention became widespread. He passed away in 1962, and his research wasn’t rediscovered until two years later, when Caltrans decided to further research raised pavement markers, and the rest is history.
Gotta love those raised pavement markers!