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Meredith Gourdine is best known for his invention of various electrostatic precipitator systems, which help to remove smoke from burning buildings, and a method of removing fog from airport runways.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Gourdine ran track while attending Cornell University and qualified for the long jump in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.
Gourdine’s athleticism and focus took him to the Olympics in Finland, however, he’d finish with the silver medal, missing the gold by a mere inch and a half. The closeness of the contest haunted him for years. “I would have rather lost by a foot,” Gourdine once said.
More than an athlete, his academic curriculum centered on Engineering Physics, in which he earned a BS from Cornell in 1953 and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in 1960.
According to MIT, in his last three years at CalTech, Gourdine was already Senior Research Scientist at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Gourdine was one of the first, and remains one of the most respected scientists in electrogasdynamics, which is the generation of energy from the motion of gas molecules that have been ionized (electrically charged) under high pressure.
Gourdine’s specialty was to invent very practical applications for this rather abstruse procedure.
According to Science, in 1964, Gourdine borrowed $200,000 from friends and used it to found Gourdine Systems, a research and development firm based in Livingston, New Jersey. In 1973, he founded another company, Energy Innovation, in Houston, Texas.
He was also granted patents for applications of electrogasdynamics to circuit breakers, acoustic imaging, air monitors, and coating systems, as well as the Focus Flow Heat Sink, which is used to cool computer chips.
Meredith Gourdine earned over 30 U.S. patents throughout the course of his life.
He is best known for his invention of various electrostatic precipitator systems (first patents granted in 1971-1973), including “Incineraid,” which helps to remove smoke from burning buildings, and a method of removing fog from airport runways (patented in 1987).
These systems clear the air by introducing a negative charge to airborne particles, according to MIT. Once negatively charged, the particles are electromagnetically attracted to the ground, and they drop down to have their former place taken by fresh air.
Gourdine also focused his efforts on heating and cooling systems based on the conversion and transfer of thermal energy, with patents granted from 1989 to 1996. In 1994, he was inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame.
He married twice, with three daughters from his first marriage and a son from his second.
In his later years, he suffered from diabetes and lost his sight and a leg from effects of the disease, but he continued to work as an inventor and as chief executive of Energy Innovations until his death on November 20, 1998.