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Dean Kamen: A Life of Invention

Inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen discusses innovation, technology and the importance of science and engineering education.

On the motivation behind a life of invention: “I don’t ever want to look back over my life and think I wasted my time. If the thing I did or the thing I made or the problem I solved was, at best, an amusement, I would feel embarrassed. I would feel stupid. I need to know that I’m working hard at something that's going to matter.”

On the inspiration behind his nonprofit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology): “We had a demand problem. I thought, ‘Let’s use sports and entertainment to package the stuff kids really need to develop a passion for: thinking, analytic skills, developing a brain. We’ll create an institution that will do for science and technology what modern media has done for Hollywood and sports.’”

On how he addresses failure: “Whenever something isn’t working well, I put it aside. It’s not a failure – it’s a problem that I’m going to solve once the technology catches up with the need. What is left behind may have cost time, money and a little experience, but we will come back to it another day.”

 

TALKING WITH... DEAN KAMEN

What was your first job?
I was always terrified of having a boss, so I decided early on that I would make things myself. I’ve never been on anybody’s payroll.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Archimedes, Galileo, Einstein – there’s a few dozen people that gave us the rules of the world. Probably one of them.

What was the best advice you ever received?
My father, who was an artist, used to work nonstop. He’d come home from the city and get right back to work after dinner. He told me, “Find something you love to do, make a life doing it, and you’ll be a happy person.”