Lonnie G Johnson – Black History Weekly Wednesday 2015

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Lonnie G Johnson

Finishing his master’s, Lonnie G. Johnson signed up with the Air Force and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command, where he helped develop the stealth bomber program. His other projects included working as a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. Johnson also came up with the Super Soaker squirt gun, which became probably the most popular toys in the world.

Inventor, engineer. Lonnie G Johnson was born October 6, 1949 in Mobile, Alabama. His father was a World War II veteran who worked as a civilian driver at nearby Air Force bases, while his mother worked in a laundry and as a nurse’s aid. Throughout the summers, both of Johnson’s parents additionally picked natural cotton on his grandfather’s farmville farm. Out of both curiosity and financial requirement, Johnson’s father was a competent renovator who coached his children to make their own toys. When Johnson was still a little boy, he and his father crafted a pressurized Chinaberry shooter from bamboo shoots. At the age of 13, Johnson linked a lawnmower motor to a go-cart he built from junkyard scraps and raced it along side the highway until the police pulled him over.

Johnson imagined becoming a famous inventor, and through his adolescent years he became even more interested in learning the way things functioned and more focused in his experimentation-sometimes to the detriment of his family. "Lonnie tore up his sister’s baby toy doll to see exactly what made the eyes close," his mother later remembered. Another time, he almost burned the house down when he attempted to cook up rocket fuel in one of his mother’s saucepans and the mixture erupted.

The inventor or the super soaker

Johnson, who is African-American, was raised in the Deep South during the days of lawful segregation and predominant racism. He went to Williamson High School, an all-black school where, in spite of his bright cleverness and creativeness, he was told never to aspire beyond a profession as a technician. Nevertheless, influenced by the history of the great black inventor George Washington Carver, Johnson persevered in his dream of becoming an inventor. Nicknamed "The Professor" by his high school buddies, as a senior Johnson represented his the school at the 1968 Alabama State Science Fair. The fair took place at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, where just five years previously, in 1963, Governor George Wallace had actually attempted to bar a couple of black students from signing up for the school by standing in the entrance of the auditorium. Johnson is the only black student in the contest. His entry was a compressed-air-powered robot called "the Linex" which he had painstakingly built from junkyard scraps during the period of a year. He won 1st prize-as well as a praise of $250 and a good looking plaque-much to the chagrin of the university officials. "The only thing anybody from the university said to us throughout the entire competition," Johnson later recalled, "was ‘Goodbye, and y’all drive safe, now.’"

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One year later, in 1969, Lonnie G Johnson managed to graduate from Williamson High School as a member of its final segregated class.

He earned a grant to Tuskegee University-where his idol George Washington Carver had at one time taught-and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1973 and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1975.

Upon finishing his master’s, Johnson signed up with the Air Force and eventually established himself as an essential member of the government scientific establishment. Johnson was designated to the Strategic Air Command, where he assisted development of the stealth bomber program. His additional projects included analyzing plutonium fuel spheres at the Savannah River National Laboratory and working as a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn.

Even while doing work for the Air Force, Johnson persisted to pursue his own creations in his spare time. One of his longtime pet assignments was an eco-friendly heat pump that utilized h2o as opposed to Freon. Johnson eventually completed a prototype one night in 1982 and made a decision to test it in his bathroom. He aimed the nozzle into his bathtub, pulled the handle and blasted a strong stream of water directly into the tub. Johnson’s immediate and in-born reaction, since embraced by countless kids all over the world: That was awesome. In 1989, following another 7 years of tinkering and endless sales-pitching, during which he give up the Air Force to go into business for himself, Johnson eventually got rid of his device, called the Super Soaker, to the Larami Corporation, which put it into bulk production. The Super Soaker, greatly better than earlier generations of squirt guns, swiftly became probably the most well-known toys in the world and has kept its position among the list of world’s top20 bestselling toys each year since its creation.

Powered by the success of the Super Soaker, Johnson started his own business, Johnson Research & Development, since purchasing over ONE HUNDRED patents. A number of his innovations, such as a ceramic battery and hair rollers that set without having heat, have accomplished industrial success. Others, such as a diaper that will play a nursery rhyme when soiled, failed to catch on.

Johnson’s newest project is his most driven and essential yet. The Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC) is really an sophisticated heat engine that will convert solar powered energy into electrical power along with twice the effectiveness of present methods and without the moving parts. Although it remains only a prototype, the JTEC has got the probability of making solar powered energy competitive with coal, finally satisfying the dream of efficient, alternative solar energy. Johnson hopes to have the JTEC working or operational within the next a few years.

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Johnson and his wife Linda Moore have four children and live in the Ansley Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.

Since departing the Air Force, Lonnie Johnson has become one of an extraordinary class of scientists: the independent developer working outside of the scientific establishment. Had he retired upon patenting the Super Soaker, Johnson would certainly still go down among the most successful creators and business owners of his generation. However, if he is able to master the JTEC, Johnson will create a much bigger place in history as among the seminal figures of the continuous green systems revolution. Paul Werbos of the National Science Foundation sums up the tremendous importance of Johnson’s work: "This is a completely new category of technology … It’s like finding a brand new continent. You don’t need to know what’s there, however, you certainly want to check it out to find out … It has a darn good chance of becoming the best thing on Earth."

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