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Solar cell and battery innovator Stanford Ovshinsky dies at 89

The creative mind and inventions of Stanford Ovshinsky touched many areas of modern American life, ranging from the laptop computer and digital camera to electric cars — monumental contributions from a man who eschewed the spotlight and massive financial fortune, telling an interviewer once he was “not after the plaudits or the prizes. We’re after doing what we said we were going to do: make a difference and build a better world.”

Ovshinsky, the holder of about 400 U.S. patents and author of more than 300 scientific papers, died Wednesday of prostate cancer at his home in Bloomfield Hills just a month shy of his 90th birthday.

His inventions formed the heart of solar cells that power buildings and the nickel-metal hydride batteries that run cameras, laptops, cell phones and the first generation of hybrid cars. He openly derided the notion that he should get rich off his work, preferring instead to tackle the biggest problems imaginable, like using new energy devices to head off global warming.

His son, Harvey Ovshinsky, said in a statement that his father died peacefully.

“Our family grieves the loss to the world of our deeply loved father, husband, grandfather, brother, and outstanding contributor to humanity,” he said. “To the end, Stan was true to his character, always solving, always learning. Even in his last days, while in and out of his deep sleep, he told us he was still ‘trying to figure it out.’ Knowing Dad, I’m sure he did.”
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