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Predicting the Great Achievements of the 21st Century

Looking at the technologies of 1914 might give a hint to the future

3 min read
Predicting the Great Achievements of the 21st Century
Illustration: Dan Page

When I was young, my parents would tell me of the hardships of their own childhoods. These were spent at the beginning of the last century in a world with no electricity, lights, cars, airplanes, radio, or television. Of course, in the way of children, I wasn’t impressed at the time.

Then, many years later, I helped choose the U.S. National Academy of Engineering list of engineering’s greatest accomplishments of the 20th century. My parents’ stories came back to me with new meaning. In choosing and ordering the list of achievements, we weighed arguments about how much each achievement had improved the quality of life. But beyond the details of any single achievement, I was simply proud of how dramatically we engineers had bettered the way people live.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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