Dean Kamen landed in the limelight with the Segway, but he has been innovating since high school, with more than 150 patents under his belt. Recent projects include portable energy and water purification for the developing world, and a prosthetic arm for maimed soldiers.

Why you should listen

Dean Kamen is an innovator, but not just of things. He hopes to revolutionize attitudes, quality of life, awareness. While an undergraduate, he developed the first portable infusion device, which delivers drug treatments that once required round-the-clock hospital care. And, through his DEKA Research and Development, which he cofounded in 1982, he developed a portable dialysis machine, a vascular stent, and the iBOT -- a motorized wheelchair that climbs stairs (Stephen Colbert took one for a spin).

Yes, he's a college dropout, but he's a huge believer in education, and in 1989 established the nonprofit FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to inspire teenagers to pursue careers in science. FIRST sponsors lively annual competitions, where students form teams to create the best robot.

His focus now is on off-grid electricity and water purification for developing countries; another recent project, previewed at TED2007, is a prosthetic arm for maimed soldiers (read an update here). He's also working on a power source for the wonderful Think car. And, with more funding in the works, we haven't seen the last of the Segway.

What others say

“Lots of people talk and dream about changing the world. But inventor Dean Kamen is actually doing it.” — CBS News

Dean Kamen’s TED talks

Dean Kamen on the TED Blog
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Technology

The emotion behind invention: Dean Kamen on TED.com

April 6, 2010

Soldiers who’ve lost limbs in service face a daily struggle unimaginable to most of us. At TEDMED, Dean Kamen talks about the profound people and stories that motivated his work to give parts of their lives back with his design for a remarkable prosthetic arm. (Recorded at TEDMED 2009, February 2010 in San Diego, CA. […]

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Invention

I'll wait for the bicycle version

March 17, 2009

It takes a certain courage to look at the design of nearly every ground vehicle that exists and say, “You know the real problem with these? They run on wheels.” A stunned silence descended over the TED office as this amazing demo video hopped from email to email, and we think you may react the […]

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Quotes from Dean Kamen

[Chuck’s wife] was standing behind me at the time and she said, ‘Chuck hasn’t fed himself in 19 years. So, you’ve got a choice: We keep the arm, or you keep Chuck.’
Dean Kamen
TEDMED 2009 • 454K views Apr 2010
Inspiring, Jaw-dropping