Stanford Robert Ovshinsky

Stanford Robert Ovshinsky

Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA
Death 17 Oct 2012 (aged 89)
Bloomfield Hills, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
Burial Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA
Memorial ID 101966897 · View Source
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Inventor, Scientist. He is best known for his many inventions in digital memory, solar energy, battery technology, optical media, and solid hydrogen storage. He has often been compared with Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein because of his many scientific patents (over 400), and his independent and radical contributions to science. Born in Akron, Ohio, to working-class Jewish immigrant parents who had escaped Eastern Europe around 1905, he worked as a toolmaker and machinist in various shops affiliated with the rubber industry prior to graduating from high school in June 1941. He moved to Arizona during World War II where he worked in the tool room of a Goodyear plant near Phoenix. Before the end of the war he relocated to Akron, Ohio and founded his own machine company, where he developed and patented his first invention, the Benjamin Center Drive (named after his father), a unique automatic high-speed center drive lathe. He then sold his company to the New Britain Machine Company in Connecticut, where his invention was used to make artillery shells in large volume for the Korean War effort. In 1951, he accepted an offer to move to Detroit, Michigan, to work in the automotive industry as the director of research at the Hupp Motor Company. He invented electric power steering but the company's president was opposed to finalizing arrangements with General Motors to utilize the product. Shortly afterward, he and his younger brother Herb Ovshinsky, a mechanical engineer, formed a small company called General Automation in a Detroit storefront, where he began researching and developing various energy and information technologies, while studying neurophysiology and neurological diseases. Based on some of his early writings about nerve impulses and the nature of intelligence, he was invited by the Wayne Medical School in Detroit in June 1955 to participate in pioneering experimental research on the mammalian cerebellum. With the help of his brother, he soon began working on the development of a mechanical model of a nerve cell, an amorphous thin-film switch they named the Ovitron. He patented the device and disclosed it publicly in New York City in 1959. On January 1, 1960, he and his second wife Iris Dibner, founded Energy Conversion Laboratory to develop his information and energy inventions. He built new types of electronic and optical switches, including his Ovonic Phase Change Memory and his Threshold Switch, which the former would later become the basis of his subsequent inventions of rewritable CDs, DVDs, and other new computer technologies. In 1963, with his personal funds running short, he sought public funding but first wanted to validate the importance of his work from a notable scientist. He contacted the Nobel Laureate John Bardeen, a co-inventor of the transistor and co-discoverer of the theory of superconductivity and asked him to look over his accomplishments. While Bardeen could not come immediately, he sent a University of Chicago physicist, Hellmut Fritzsche, who supported Ovshinsky's work and helped to attract other famous scientists to his laboratory, some of whom joined as consultants or as members of the company's board of directors. In 1964, he changed his laboratory's name to Energy Conversion Devices and relocated to a larger facility in Troy, Michigan. The company continued to develop electronic memory, batteries (including the nickel-metal hydride battery used in the hybrid vehicle industry), and solar cells, and reinvested most of its profits into other scientific studies, much of which later became the basis of lucrative industries, e.g., flat screen liquid crystal displays. He retired from Energy Conversion Devices in 2007 and launched a new company, Ovshinsky Innovation LLC, where he continued to work on information and energy science up until the time he became ill. During his life he won numerous prizes and received seven honorary doctorate degrees resulting from his contributions to science and innovation, and was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Engineering Society of Detroit, and a member of the Director's Council at the Michigan Center for the Theoretical Physics, University of Michigan. He was also committed to human and equal rights, and actively participated in labor, civil rights, and peace movements. He died of complications from prostate cancer.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: William Bjornstad
  • Added: 10 Dec 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 101966897
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Stanford Robert Ovshinsky (24 Nov 1922–17 Oct 2012), Find a Grave Memorial no. 101966897, citing Farband and Workmens Circle Cemetery, Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .