Dean Kamen is an American entrepreneur, inventor and technology advocate, who is the president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. Kamen was born on Long Island, New York in 1951. His father Jack Kamen was an illustrator for EC Comics. Kamen studied at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute but did not stay behind to complete his degree. His first invention was a “wearable infusion pump” made when he was still a college undergraduate. This has been widely used in many medical fields such as chemotherapy, neonatology, and endocrinology. Kamen founded his own medical device manufacturing company by the name of “AutoSyringe, Inc.” This company would manufacture and market the pumps that Kamen had developed and was later sold to Baxter Healthcare Corporation.
After selling his first company, Kamen founded another one by the name of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. The purpose of this company was to develop radical new technologies and provide research and development expertise for corporate clients. One of DEKA’s most successful inventions and supervised by Kamen includes “HomeChoice peritoneal dialysis system”. This was developed for Baxter International Inc. and is a system for performing dialysis at patients’ homes rather than necessarily at hospitals. This product quickly became the worldwide industry leader.
Kamen’s best known invention is the “Segway PT” (Personal Transporter) – a battery powered mobility system used to transport people with disabilities. The device has an inbuilt stabilizing system so it is effectively self balancing. It has two wheels and can be controlled by shifting body weight. A similar invention is the iBOT, an all purpose electric wheelchair formed in partnership with Johnson and Johnson’s Independence Technology division. Kamen also developed a water purification system to help improve living standards in developing countries. Another device is a human launcher that pushes people high into the air – this allows emergency rescue and SWAT teams to access high rising, inaccessible buildings quickly and easily.
Kamen has recently expanded the focus of his work and is not solely working towards the development of health care products. This includes using technology to solve the problems of pollution, electricity shortage and water contamination. Deka’s team of engineers is working towards the latter objective by trying to build a “nonpolluting engine”. This is being funded by millions of dollars of Kamen’s private capital.
In 1989, Dean Kamen founded a non-profit organization by the name of FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. This organization is devoted to the promotion of interest in the fields of science and technology, especially in children and teenagers. Kamen encourages children to pursue scientifically inclined careers such as engineering. FIRST sponsors scientific competitions in the U.S. as well as abroad.
Kamen has won several honors and awards for his accomplishments so far. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, has received the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment, National Medal of Technology from President Clinton and several others. TIME magazine lauded his invention of the “Slingshot” – a cheap, portable, water purification system. He has been inducted into the National Inventors’ hall of Fame.
Dean Kamen is currently 63 years old and lives in a huge hexagonal mansion named “Westwind” in Bedford, New Hampshire. His house is built on four levels and equipped with fascinating things such as an observation tower, a steam engine that once belonged to Henry Ford, novelty vintage furniture, a secret passageway and a helicopter hangar (as he often commutes via helicopter). His exact net worth isn’t known but it is estimated to be in billions of dollars.