Inventor of the Segway
Dean Kamen (b. 1951) was born in New York, the son of famous illustrator Jack Kamen. He dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute to focus on his career as an inventor and entrepreneur. His first big success was inventing a wearable drug infusion pump, after which he started his first company AutoSyringe. Following this, he worked on portable kidney dialysis machines, robotic arms, insulin pumps, the Stirling engine, water purification systems, as well as solar power and off-grid electricity in the hopes of raising the standard of life in developing countries. Among his more interesting inventions are an all-terrain wheelchair, and a device that launches people into the air, used by law enforcement agents and emergency workers to get to the top of tall or inaccessible rooftops and buildings. Above all though, his most well-known invention is undoubtedly the Segway – the cool, self-balancing, two-wheeled personal transporter. Though it has yet to catch-on among the public, it was once thought to be an invention “more important than the internet”, and Steve Jobs said it was “as big a deal as the PC”. Meanwhile, Kamen founded an organization called FIRST, aimed at inspiring students to enter technology and engineering programs. The organization provides over $15 million in scholarships. It also runs the famous FIRST Robotics Competition, now held in some 60 locations around the world, with over one million students having participated over the years. All in all, Kamen holds over 440 patents. He has already been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and has won a great number of awards and honourary degrees, including the National Medal of Technology, and the UN’s Global Humanitarian Action Award. In 2010, he also starred in the TV show Dean of Invention. Kamen is a hobbyist pilot, and owns a collection of jet aircraft and helicopters, which he usually flies to work.
Words of the Week
He was this little guy David, and he had this really big problem, Goliath, and he took him out because he had a little piece of technology, and I thought, “Wow, technology is cool.”
– Dean Kamen, on being inspired by the Biblical story of David and Goliath