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The Pied Piper of Technology

By Joan Killough-Miller

Dean Kamen has been called a "breakout artist" (Wired), "an altruistic Buckaroo Banzai of the 21st century" (Inside), a "rebellious genius," (New Hampshire Business Digest), "a Thomas Edison of the medical world" (Dateline), and "the Pied Piper of Technology" (Smithsonian Magazine). At a White House ceremony, Bill Clinton once referred to Kamen's energy as "the single most inexhaustible thing I think I've seen in the United States of America."

Kamen and his IBOT went to the White House in 2000 to receive the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest technological honor. Kamen was recognized for "innovations that have advanced medical care worldwide, and for innovative and imaginative leadership in awakening America to the excitement of science and technology." The medal is just one of many accolades Kamen has received in recognition of his "technological humanism." That same quality won him WPI's inaugural Presidential Medal in March 2001.

Here are a few of the Kamen's other honors:

These and other honors stem from Kamen's extraordinary achievements as a designer and entrepreneur, and his efforts to steer talented youth toward careers in science and technology through programs like FIRST. But the general public is getting to know him from a particular invention that until recently was known only to those inside Kamen's corporate community.

When news of a book proposal about a secret project at DEKA was leaked on the Internet in early January 2000, speculation about an invention called Ginger or IT swept the Web--and the world. Within days, Kamen's name was popping up on the front pages of major newspapers, TV shows and Web sites. (Brill's Content notes that by the second week in January, Ginger/IT was the fourth most-requested search term on the Lycos search engine--right behind Britney Spears.)

Kamen's response was largely silence--amplified by two press releases declining further comment. "We have a promising project, but nothing of the earth-shattering nature that people are conjuring up," he wrote. "Please let me focus my public efforts on being an evangelist for FIRST, a cause which truly could have an earth-shattering impact."

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Last modified: Aug 31, 2004, 17:07 EDT
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