Alfred Carlton Gilbert was born in Salem, Oregon on Feb 13 or 14, 1884. He began his college education at Pacific University, and transferred to Yale in 1902. He graduated with a degree in sports medicine. During his time in school he worked as a magician. He was very athletic, setting records in chin-ups and running long dive. He helped develop pole vaulting, and tied for gold in the 1908 Olympics.
In 1913, he invented the erector set. The idea came from seeing steel girders along the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railway. He also developed chemistry sets, microscope sets, and model train sets. In 1918, he fought to keep manufacturing toys during WWI. Gilbert also co founded the Toy Manufacturers of America organization. He died in Boston, Massachusetts on Jan 24, 1961.
Photo of Gilbert: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b5/AlfredCarltonGilbert_c1915.jpg
Photo of Erector Set: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Erector_Set_Ad_1922.JPG