Tag Archives: Engineering

Jew of the Week: Stan Ovshinsky

Inventor of (Almost) Everything

Mr. Ovshinsky made your life a lot easier

Stanford Ovshinsky (b. 1922) was born in Akron, Ohio to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Belarus. Instilled by his father with a sense of working for the good of the public, Ovshinsky went on to invent over 400 things for which he holds patents. He first created a special high-speed lathe that was used in the war effort to rapidly produce artillery shells. In 1951 he moved to Detroit to work in the auto industry and invented, among many other things, electric power steering. Besides mechanical engineering, Ovshinsky studied a diverse array of other subjects and one of his main focuses was neurophysiology. He was able to fashion a model nerve cell that was hailed as a breakthrough in nanotechnology. He also discovered what became known as the “Ovshinsky Effect”, which led to the development of rewritable CDs, DVDs and flat-screen displays. Ovshinsky is most famous for his work in batteries and solar cells. He invented the rechargeable (Ni-H) battery, and shattered all expectations by creating a 30 megawatt solar generator at a time when even 5 megawatts was a dream. Although he is nearly 90 years old, Ovshinsky continues his work, mostly on photovoltaic cells, with the express goal of making fossil fuels obsolete. He has been compared to both Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and is often called the “world’s most important energy visionary.” TIME Magazine named him “Hero of the Planet” in 1999. He has won countless awards and published over 300 scientific papers. His latest thin-film PV invention may soon be powering all of your devices, but you’ve probably never heard of him (until now). His humility can be summed up in his own words: “I’m not going to tell you about it, I’m just going to show you”.

Update: Sadly, Stanford Ovshinsky passed away on October 17, 2012 – five months after this piece was originally posted.

Words of the Week

Study the past if you want to define the future.
– Confucius

Jew of the Week: Seymour Schulich

Mr. Schulich

Seymour Schulich (b. 1940) A science and engineering major from Montreal, he made most of his fortune in the oil and mining industries, primarily by inventing a new system of royalty payments. Schulich is often considered Canada’s top investor, as well as Canada’s greatest philanthropist. He recently donated $100 million to fund scholarships for university students through the United Jewish Appeal. This is in addition to $250 million he has already donated over the course of his life to various schools, hospitals and charities. It is therefore not surprising that he is the namesake for many institutions, including York’s Schulich School of Business, Western’s Schulich School of Medicine, Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering, Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, McGill’s Schulich School of Music, Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre, and Technion’s Schulich Faculty of Chemistry. He has received the Order of Canada.

Words of the Week

Most men worry about their own bellies and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls and other people’s bellies.
– Rabbi Israel Salanter