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The Man Who Saw TomorrowThe Life and Inventions of Stanford R. Ovshinsky$
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Lillian Hoddeson and Peter Garrett

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780262037532

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262037532.001.0001

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Love Story (1950s)

Love Story (1950s)

(p.65) 4 Love Story (1950s)
The Man Who Saw Tomorrow

Lillian Hoddeson

Peter Garrett

The MIT Press

In late 1951, Ovshinsky moved to Detroit, where as research director at Hupp Corporation he invented improved automotive components, including electric power steering and an electrical automatic transmission. In 1954 he and his brother Herb Ovshinsky started their company General Automation, where their most important inventions were new kinds of switches. Meanwhile, Ovshinsky’s personal life was transformed when he and Iris Dibner fell in love and planned to eventually marry and work together. With Iris’s encouragement, Ovshinsky extended his cybernetic interest to studying neurophysiology, performing research on nerve cells at Wayne State University. These studies resulted in his invention of an electrochemical switch he named the Ovitron, based on an analogy with the mechanism of a nerve cell. This nerve-cell analogy was pivotal for Ovshinsky: it oriented him to the rich possibilities of working with amorphous and disordered materials, which at that time most physicists dismissed as “dirt materials.”

Keywords:   automation, electric power steering, Herb Ovshinsky, nerve cell analogy, Ovitron switch

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