Stanford R. Ovshinsky bigraphy, stories - Prolific American inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur

Stanford R. Ovshinsky : biography

November 24, 1922 - October 17, 2012

Stanford Robert Ovshinsky (November 24, 1922 – October 17, 2012) was a prolific American inventor and scientist who had been granted well over 400 patents over fifty years, mostly in the areas of energy and information.Avery Cohn, "A Revolution Fueled by the Sun," Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies (Spring 2008): p. 22. Many of his inventions have had wide ranging applications. Among the most prominent are: an environmentally friendly nickel-metal hydride battery, which has been widely used in laptop computers, digital cameras, cell phones, and electric and hybrid cars; continuous web multi-junction flexible thin-film solar energy laminates and panels; flat screen liquid crystal displays; rewritable CD and DVD discs; hydrogen fuel cells; and nonvolatile phase-change memory."The Edison of our Age?" The Economist, December 2, 2006, pp. 33–34. Ovshinsky opened the scientific field of amorphous and disordered materials in the course of his research in the 1940s and 50s in neurophysiology, neural disease, the nature of intelligence in mammals and machines, and cybernetics."The Edison of our Age?" The Economist, December 2, 2006Hellmut Fritzsche and Brian Schwartz, Stanford R. Ovshinsky: The Science and Technology of an American Genius (Singapore: World Scientific, 2008), pp. 3, 5, 51. Amorphous silicon semiconductors have become the basis of many technologies and industries. Ovshinsky is also distinguished in being self-taught, without formal college or graduate training. Throughout his life, his love for science and his social convictions were the primary engines for his inventive work.

In 1960, Ovshinsky and his soon-to-be second wife, Iris Dibner, founded Energy Conversion Laboratory in a storefront in Detroit, dedicating the laboratory to the solution of important societal problems using science and technology. Focusing on the critical areas of energy and information, their new company, reconstituted in 1964 as Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), went on to become a forefront invention and development laboratory whose products have built new industries, many of them aimed at making fossil fuel obsolete. ECD continues (through joint ventures and license partners) to be a leading solar energy and battery production firm.John Fialka, "Power Surge: After Decades, A Solar Pioneer Sees Spark in Sales" Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2006; >"The Edison of our Age?"

Roughly a year after Iris Ovshinsky's death in August 2006, Ovshinsky left ECD and established a new company, Ovshinsky Innovation LLC, devoted to developing the scientific basis for highly innovative and revolutionary energy and information technologies. In October 2007 he married Rosa Young, a physicist who had worked at ECD on numerous energy technologies including a hydrogen-powered hybrid car and on Ovshinsky's vision of a hydrogen-based economy.

In popular culture

Ovshinsky appeared in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, as well as in parts 1 and 3 of the episode "Hydrogen Hopes" of Alan Alda's television series Scientific American Frontiers. The website of Scientific American Frontiers makes "Hydrogen Hopes" available for viewing at no charge, as well as the text of an interview with Stan and Iris Ovshinsky. Ovshinsky was profiled as "Japan's American Genius" in the PBS series NOVA (October 1987).

Honors and awards

With more than 300 publications on his curriculum vitae, Ovshinsky has won many prizes for his contributions to science and innovation.

Memberships and fellowships

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Fellow of the Engineering Society of Detroit
  • Member of the Director's Council at the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics, University of Michigan


  • 2005 Innovation Award for Energy and the Environment by The Economist
  • American Solar Energy Society Hoyt Clarke Hottel Award
  • Karl W. Böer Solar Energy Medal of Merit
  • International Association for Hydrogen Energy Sir William Grove Award
  • 2007 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation, presented by Sigma Xi, the Research Society
  • Frederick Douglass/Eugene V. Debs Award (2006)
  • Engineering Society of Detroit Lifetime Achievement Award (2008)
  • Environmental Hall of Fame 2008 Award, Solar Thin Film Category, Father of Thin-Film Solar Energy
  • IEEE Vehicular Technology Society Presidential Citation in recognition of a long and outstanding record of pioneering accomplishments and service to the profession (2009)
  • 2009 Thomas Midgley Award from the Detroit Section of the American Chemical Society
  • Nominated as a finalist for the prestigious European Inventor Award 2012 by the European Patent Office for his development of NiMH batteries. The award was launched in 2006 as the first European prize to distinguish inventors who have made "an outstanding contribution to innovation, economy and society."
  • Named "Hero for the Planet" by TIME magazine (1999), with Iris Ovshinsky Hero of Chemistry 2000 by the American Chemical Society
  • Inducted into the 2005 Solar Hall of Fame
  • Diesel Gold Medal presented by the German Inventors Association (Deutscher Erfinderverband), in recognition of his discovery of the semiconductor switching effect in disordered and amorphous materials (1968)
  • Honorary Calgarian award at Louis Riel School in Calgary, Canada (May 24, 2012)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Engineering degree from Kettering University, Flint, Michigan (December 11, 2010)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 1, 2010)
  • Honorary Doctorate in Science from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan (May 7, 2009)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois (May 16, 2009)
  • Honorary Doctorate from Ovidius University, Constanţa, Romania (June 30, 2009)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science from New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, New York (May 18, 2008)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science from Kean University, Union, New Jersey (May 8, 2007)
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