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The History of the Electric Knife

Ronnie Dauber

Our kitchens are filled with electrical appliances and devices that can make creating meals or quick snacks an easy experience. In fact, we are so used to having technology and convenience at our fingertips that often we forget that the generations before us never had these advantages. The electric knife is one such invention.

About the Electric Knife

The electric knife is a hand-held knife that is energized through a small motor and has two serrated blades that are clipped together. When it’s turned on, the blades move very rapidly back and forth, providing a sawing motion. This enables the user to simply hold the knife over the food and slice it without using any physical effort. These knives are available today as electrical or cordless small appliances and are also referred to as “electric carving knives.”

The Background

After the Second World War, many upper-class homes could no longer afford servants to prepare their meals and so many housewives were left alone with the task of cooking and serving the food. It became a challenge that was publicly noted and one man in particular realized that women needed culinary help in the kitchen. As electricity became more accessible and the need for kitchen help was on the rise, he combined the use of an interior combustion motor with dual blades to create the electric knife.

The Inventor

Jerome L. Murray (August 12, 1920-January 7, 1998) was the inventor of the electric knife, along with at least 75 other domestic and foreign patents for other inventions. These include the peristaltic pump, which is used in open heart surgery, and the first windmill used for electricity, which was his first invention at the age of 15. Although the exact date of introducing the electric knife has never been clearly established, it was patented in 1964 and soon became a household item, manufactured by companies such as Black & Decker and Kitchen Aid.

Introduction of the Electric Knife

When it was first introduced, the electric knife became a popular kitchen tool. However, there were drawbacks to its use. People realized that the knife required constant maintenance. It had to be taken apart and cleaned thoroughly after each use to prevent the spreading of germs and the corrosion of rust and busy people found this more of an inconvenience than an advantage. When the blades weren’t fitted in exactly, they snapped or caused injury when the knives were turned on. After the novelty wore off, a majority of households returned to the old-fashioned knife for slicing food and reserved the knife specifically for carving meat.


The concept of the electric knife was one that has benefited both the medical and forensic world. An electric knife, smaller and more finely detailed than the kitchen appliance, is a regular surgical tool in hospital operating rooms for complicated surgeries. It has also become the main cutting apparatus in performing autopsies and in forensic study.