Akron inventor’s life story told

Co-author Lillian Hoddeson holds a doctorate in physics from Columbia University, but even she acknowledges that interviewing her subject, Stanford Ovshinsky, could be challenging. In The Man Who Saw Tomorrow: The Life and Inventions of Stanford R. Ovshinsky, Hoddeson and her husband, Peter Garrett, cover the Akron-born innovator from his school days through his notable career.

The Ovshinsky family lived on Warner Court when Stan was born, but had moved to Moon Street, in a Jewish neighborhood, by the time he was 6. Stan was not very religious, but spent a lot of time at the Akron Workmen’s Circle hall, the local branch of a national Jewish social and educational organization, and at the library. He was fascinated by machinery, and became committed to democratic socialism.

At Buchtel High School, Stan was failed on a book report because the teacher had never heard of the author, who later won a Nobel Prize. It never occurred to him to attend college; instead, he worked at Akron Standard Mold in the summer of 1940, which set him on his path but gave him a look at the business world: He remembered that “No one would help you, because your accomplishments threatened their job security.” When he got a full-time job at Goodrich’s Miller Plant 2, his union activities drew attempts on his life.

Ovshinsky worked at a Goodyear war plant in Arizona, which was helpful for his asthma, and then began his life’s work in earnest when he started a machine company off Waterloo Road. He invented a new lathe, followed by an automated tractor, a form of power steering, the “Ovitron” electric switch and the invention for which he is best known, the rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery.

In 2005, Ovshinsky addressed the Akron Roundtable on “Can the Hydrogen Economy Solve Akron’s Problems by Building New Industries?” proposing hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The idea was popular, but funding did not come through.

Stanford Ovshinsky was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012, and died in October of that year.

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (377 pages, hardcover) costs $29.99 from MIT Press. Lillian Hoddeson is professor of history emerita, and Peter Garrett is professor of English emeritus, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A tribute to Ohio rock music

Cleveland is indeed the rock ’n’ roll capital of the world, but Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton get their due in Rebels and Underdogs: The Story of Ohio Rock and Roll by Garin Pirnia.

Pirnia says her motivation to write the book was the realization that “how many amazing musicians have formed bands or were born in the Buckeye State,” and her question to sources was “What was it about Ohio that bred these bands?” Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels is one of these sources, and is heavily quoted in the Akron and Cleveland chapters on Akron-originated bands the Black Keys and Devo.

The Akron chapter also cites 1970s groups Chi-Pig, Tin Huey, the Numbers Band, the Waitresses and the Pretenders, fronted by Akron native Chrissie Hynde. The Cleveland chapter features Nine Inch Nails. Three more chapters discuss rock artists from Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.

Rebels and Underdogs (174 pages, softcover) costs $15 from Red Lightning Books. Garin Pirnia is a Dayton native and lives in Kentucky.

Footnote

Former Shaker Heights resident Celeste Ng, author of the Shaker Heights-set Little Fires Everywhere, has won the New England Book Award in the fiction category; Ng lives in Cambridge, Mass.

Events

Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Tom Levenick signs Buckeyes for Life: Insider Views of the Most Elite Program in College Athletics, 1 p.m. Sunday.

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights) — Bill Karelis talks about meditation and signs Like a Snow Lion in Its Prime: The Path of Basic Goodness, 1 p.m. Sunday; Todd Michney discusses Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980, 7 p.m. Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood branch, 25501 Shaker Blvd.) — NPR correspondent David Folkenflik (Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires) talks to Cleveland Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue about news, 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Register at 216-831-6868.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Nordonia Hills branch, 9458 Olde Eight Road, Northfield) — Andi Lawrencovna discusses her Charming fantasy series, 7 p.m. Thursday. Register at 330-467-8595.

Barnes & Noble (4015 Medina Road, Bath) — Basketball Hall of Fame member Artis Gilmore and Mark Bruner sign Here Comes the A Train! The Story of Basketball Legend Artis Gilmore, 6 p.m. Friday.

Cleveland Public Library (525 Superior Ave.) — Novelist and comics writer Benjamin Percy (Pushcart Prize-winning Refresh, Refresh; The Dark Net) launches the library’s 2018 Writers & Readers series with “How Do You Create Suspense? I’ll Tell You Later,” 7 to 9 p.m. Friday; at 3 p.m. Saturday, Percy will give the keynote address of Literary Cleveland’s Inkubator conference and speak with Brad Ricca, author of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.

Visible Voice Books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland) — Dave Ford and Brad Schwartz debut their illustrated history The Birth of Downtown Cleveland: A Vision Interrupted, 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

— Barbara McIntyre

ABJ/Ohio.com correspondent

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.