How an F Student Became Americaâ€™s Most Prolific Inventor
J Thoendell stashed this in Science
As we pull away, I wonder aloud if all the detritus crammed in his SUV could be from a hobby. â€śNo, I donâ€™t have time for any of that,â€ť Wood says. He adds that heâ€™s not terribly good with the ordinary aspects of lifeâ€”paying bills, say, or car washing. Heâ€™s too consumed with inventing solutions to the worldâ€™s problems. Ideasâ€”really big ideasâ€”keep bombarding his mind. â€śItâ€™s like the rain forest,â€ť he says. â€śEvery afternoon, the rains come.â€ť
From most people, a comment like that would be preposterously self-important, if not delusional. But Wood is just telling the truth. At 74, heâ€™s been an inventor-in-residence at Intellectual Ventures, a technology research and patent firm, for about a decade. Heâ€™s paid to think and orchestrate international teams to develop products such as anticoncussion helmets, drug-delivery systems, superÂefficient nuclear reactorsâ€”anything, really, that might address some pressing need. In the 1980s he led the development of the space lasers that were meant to shield the U.S. from Soviet missiles as part of the â€śStar Warsâ€ť program. Heâ€™s an astrophysicist, a self-trained paleontologist and computer scientist, and, as of a few months ago, the most prolific inventor in U.S. history.