June 04, 2009

More than 70 people gathered March 23 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Gordon Library to experience Trustee Emeritus Howard Freeman ’40 reflecting on his innovative and legendary career as an inventor and entrepreneur, as part of the Gordon Library Speaker Series that was co-sponsored by the library and the university’s Fire Protection Engineering Department.

Freeman began his lifelong series of discoveries at age 22, when he invented a water-fog nozzle that revolutionized the fire protection industry. The nozzle, a device that extinguishes oil fires with sea water, saved many ships and thousands of lives during World War II. He also invented a fire-fighting fog-foam nozzle that spared aircraft carriers from fires created by enemy aircraft diving onto the ships’ decks. In addition, he pioneered crash trucks using fog-foam nozzles, saving lives at airports.

During his lecture, Freeman discussed his business career. In 1954, he invented a high-performance ball valve and founded the highly successful Jamesbury Corp., a global manufacturer of valves used in nuclear submarines and piping systems. His voyage of discovery continues today, as he is currently working on experiments using algae.