Inventor Dean Kamen discusses a creation that brings potable water and sustainable electricity to under served populations.
Dean Kamen is an inventor, an entrepreneur and a tireless advocate for science and technology. His roles as inventor and advocate are intertwined -- his own passion for technology and its practical uses has driven his personal determination to spread the word about technology’s virtues and by so doing to change the culture of the United States. His vast knowledge of the physical sciences, combined with his ability to integrate the fundamental laws of physics with the most modern technologies, has led to the development of breakthrough processes and products.
As an inventor, he holds more than 400 U.S. and foreign patents, many of them for innovative medical devices that have expanded the frontiers of health care worldwide. While still a college undergraduate, he invented the first wearable infusion pump, which rapidly gained acceptance from such diverse medical specialties as chemotherapy, neonatology and endocrinology. In 1976 he founded his first medical device company, AutoSyringe, Inc., to manufacture and market the pumps. At age 30, he sold that company to Baxter International Corporation. By then, he had added a number of other infusion devices, including the first insulin pump for diabetics. Following the sale of AutoSyringe, Inc., he founded DEKA Research & Development Corporation to develop internally generated inventions as well as to provide R&D for major corporate clients. Recent projects have included the HomeChoice™ dialysis machine, developed for Baxter (Design News’ 1993 Medical Product of the Year), and the INDEPENDENCE™ IBOT™ Mobility System, also developed for Johnson & Johnson.
A decade ago Dean founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and ever since has remained its driving force, its guiding spirit, and, in the eyes of thousands of school children across the country, its personal embodiment. FIRST uses wholesale marketing and media techniques to motivate the next generation to want to learn about science and technology. He has personally recruited scores of the top leaders of American industry, education and government in this crusade. As a result, each of the past three national championships of the FIRST robotics competition, which teams up professional engineers with high school students from across the country, has set a new record as the largest non-Disney event ever held at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center.
In addition to his own attempts to master science and technology, he has received significant public recognition for his crusade on behalf of science and engineering. He was, for example, labeled by Smithsonian Magazine "the Pied Piper of Technology" and profiled by the New York Times as "A New Kind of Hero for American Youth".
Among the honors received by Kamen: The Kilby Award, which celebrates those who make extraordinary contributions to society; the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment; and the National Medal of Technology, awarded by President Clinton in 2000 for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide, and for innovative and imaginative leadership in awakening America to the excitement of science and technology.