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Scientist, inventor Stanford R. Ovshinsky dies at 89

Stan Ovshinsky
courtesy of the Ovshinsky family

An obituary from the Ovshinsky family:

Stanford R. Ovshinsky died peacefully at his home just 39 days short of his 90th birthday.  The cause of death was prostate cancer. 

Akron born Ovshinsky is credited with the development of the field of amorphous and disordered semiconductors. His pioneering contributions to the fields of sustainable energy and innovative information technology include the 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 computer memories; hydrogen fuel cells; and nonvolatile phase-change electronic memories.

Ovshinsky was among 35 American inventors over the past century “who helped to shape the modern world” and as a result was profiled in the book, Inventing Modern America.

“He was the last of his kind,” says Dr. Harley Shaiken Professor of Education and Geography at the University of California at Berkeley and Chair of the University’s Center for Latin American Studies.  “Henry Ford transformed the 20th century with a moving assembly line and a car that was suited to mass production.

Stan Ovshinsky did what Ford did but he really went beyond him in that he also developed the science that allowed new materials and new approaches that laid the basis for a global transformation in energy and information.”

Described by the British publication The Economist as “the Edison of our age”, Ovshinsky was a brilliant, self-educated physicist and inventor, who with his wife Rosa and his late wife Iris, lived his beliefs daily by using science and technology to create a better world. Because his nickel-metalhydride batteries enabled the creation of electric and hybrid cars, Ovshinsky played a prominent role in the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?

In 1960, Ovshinsky and Iris co-founded the company Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD), to further develop and apply his inventions to the fields of information and energy creating a new field based on his discoveries known as “Ovonics.”

In 2007, after Iris’ death and leaving ECD, Ovshinsky married Dr. Rosa Young and formed two independent new companies Ovshinsky Innovation LLC and Ovshinsky Solar LLC to accelerate his work in energy and information.

Stanford Ovshinsky was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  His global recognition includes being the recipient of the Diesel Gold Medal for Invention, presented by the Deutscher Erfinerverband (German Inventors Association), the 2005 Innovation Award for Energy and the Environment by The Economist, he is a member of the College of Fellows of the Engineering Society of Detroit and received the 2008 Engineering Society of Detroit Lifetime Achievement Award.  Ovshinsky received numerous honorary degrees, most recently receiving an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Michigan (2010).Ovshinsky was proud to have shared the stage with President Obama who was given an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

Earlier this year Ovshinsky was nominated as a finalist for the prestigious European Inventor Award 2012 by the European Patent Office for his development of nickel-metal hydride 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.”

In addition to being a scientist, Ovshinsky was also a humanitarian. His courage and leadership from the early days of the labor, civil rights and peace movements, continued in his lifelong dedication to a just society for all.

Stanford Ovshinsky is survived by his wife Rosa, children Ben, Harvey, Dale, Robin, Steven. Angela, Vicki, grandchildren Natasha, Noah, Sylvie, Pablo, Olivia, and Norah, and brother Herb. There will be a private burial at the Workman’s Circle Cemetery in Akron Ohio. The public is invited to visit Ovshinsky’s virtual memorial at www.forevermissed.com/stanford-r-ovshinsky/

Donations in Ovshinsky’s honor can be made to the ACLU of Michigan, 2966 Woodward Avenue, Detroit MI 48201 and to The Ovshinsky Student Fund c/o Darlene Logan, Director of Development , The American Physical Society, 1 Physics Ellipse College Park, MD 20740.

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