Ode to a pioneer

by Ben Van Heuvelen

Several men could lay claim to the invention of the Frisbee. By some accounts, for example, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, inspired by the discus throwers of Greece, had his men sharpen the edges of their shields and fling them at the shins of Hannibal’s stampeding war elephants to win the decisive battle of the Second Punic War.

Historians will look on our era, though, and credit the the modern plastic Frisbee to Walter Frederick “Fred” Morrison. He died Feb. 9, 2010, at his home in Monroe, Utah, of lung cancer, at the age of 90.

I interviewed Fred a few years ago. Based on that interview and his self-published memoir, I’ve written a piece for Salon.com on how the Frisbee came to be — something of a tribute to Fred, the man who created an object that I’ve spent thousands of hours of my life throwing and chasing.