I had dinner the other night with perhaps the most amazing man in Michigan, a man who has been hard at work creating the future for more than half a century .
I’m talking about the inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, a man whose life story is better than any novel, and who has more than four hundred patents to his name. If you have a laptop computer, you have him to thank for the nickel-metal-hydride battery that powers it.
His inventions include the processes that makes solar cells practical, and the first rewrittable CDs and DVDs. Five years ago, he left the company he had founded to do all these things -- Energy Conversion Devices -- and promptly started a new firm. Ovshinsky Innovation, LLC. After all, he was then barely in his mid-80s.
Today, he and his wife Rosa, a Chinese-born physicist, are hard at work on photovoltaics, which means harnessing a form of solar energy for practical purposes. Ovshinsky is convinced that he can bring down the cost of solar energy considerably below coal, and and that hydrogen is the automotive fuel of the future.
By the way, he has a long and distinguished track record of making predictions that those in the know laughed at -- and then proving them wrong. There are those in many countries who think he may be the greatest living scientist. What makes that especially amazing is that he never even graduated from high school.
He does, however, have at least seven honorary doctorates from distinguished schools including the University of Michigan.
Ovshinsky still works more than full-time; after all, he doesn’t turn 89 till November. He usually wears a three-piece suit, and is the most sartorially distinguished inventor I have ever met.