Patent Foundation Announces Award
Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf Named 2001 Inventor Of The Year
3, 2001-- The University of Virginia Patent Foundation
has named Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf, a materials scientist and University
Professor of Applied Science, as the Christopher J. Henderson 2001
Inventor of the Year.
has been a U.Va. faculty member since 1963. She teaches in the physics
department of the College of Arts and Sciences and in the materials
science department of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Patent Foundation is recognizing her for her research and six patented
inventions relating to electrical brushes, which are simple, but
critically important parts of most motors and generators. They establish
the electrical connection between an outside power source and the
rotating part of machinery, electrically linking moving and stationary
objects, such as an electric train and an overhead electrical cable.
creative work of Doris Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and her collaborators is
an inspiration to those who believe their ideas can change the world,"
said Haydn N.G. Wadley, president and chief executive officer of
the U.Va. Patent Foundation. "Doris battled for many years
with those who thought they knew better, but has convincingly demonstrated
the originality and utility of her approach for electric motors.
This new technology, using hair-fine, metal-fiber brushes, promises
to transform the capabilities of electric motors and may lead to
a host of new applications, from small actuators that can power
mobile robots to electric systems that can drive large ships."
patents build on nearly two decades of research on the physics and
materials science of electrical-current conduction across sliding
surfaces, and a search for how best to make electrical connections
between moving and static objects. Although an important topic for
industry, it has received little scientific attention.
serious drawbacks, industry has depended almost universally on brushes
made of graphite and metal-graphite composites since electric motors
and generators were developed in the late 19th century.
A major drawback is the fine dust created by wear, which accumulates
in machinery and damages it a particularly vexing problem
in U.S. Navy submarine engines. Graphite brushes also wear out quickly,
generate too much friction and electrical heat, and fail to generate
power as efficiently as they should, Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf said.
inventions are poised to eliminate these problems by replacing carbon
brushes with "multi-contact" brushes made of various metals
and alloys drawn into hair-fine fibers. Replacement is already feasible
in a variety of applications, and Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf and her team
of researchers continue to pursue a broad array of potential uses.
many professional honors include selection as a fellow of the American
Physical Society, a fellow of the American Society for Metals International,
a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a life member
of the American Society for Metals International. The Daughters
of the American Revolution awarded her their Americanism medal in
1966 and the German Society for Materials Science awarded her the
Heyn Medal for her work on the theory of metal deformation in 1988.
Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf also received the 1989 Achievement Award from
the American Society of Women Engineers and the Ragnar Holm Scientific
Achievement Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic
Engineers in 1991.
of Germany, she received her bachelors, masters and
doctoral degrees from Göttigen Unviersity. Her publication
list of nearly 300 technical articles begins in 1947 and runs through
is a true creative genius and a delightful person," said Robert
S. MacWright, U.Va. Patent Foundation executive director. "Her
ingenuity and love of science are integral parts of her personality,
which is flavored with passion and charm. It is a great honor to
and to see her receive this award recognizing her accomplishments
and her innovative spirit."
U.Va. Patent Foundation award recognizes an invention of notable
value to society. Criteria for selection include commercial success
(or commercial potential) and the invention's value in treating
disease, protecting the environment, as a tool for research, in
education and training, in the development of a field of science
or technology, or in helping the disadvantaged, the disabled and
Patent Foundation named the Inventor of the Year Award after Christopher
J. Henderson, president and chief financial officer of Robbins &
Henderson, a New York firm specializing in financial and related
services for institutions, in recognition of Hendersons interest
in technology transfer and commitment to the University of Virginia.
Established in 1992, the award program was conceived by Dr. Richard
Edlich, a professor of plastic surgery and biomedical engineering
at U.Va. Dr. Edlich presented the annual award to Kuhlmann-Wilsdorf
at a dinner held in her honor this week at the Boars Head Inn in
University of Virginia Patent Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation
affiliated with U.Va. and is responsible for licensing to business
and industry the intellectual property discovered and created in
winners of the U.Va. Inventor of the Year Award are:
-- Ronald Taylor: "Monoclonal Antibodies"
-- John C. Herr: "Contraceptive Vaccine for Women" and
"Home Sperm Test for Men"
-- Richard Guerrant and Timothy Macdonald: "Rehydration and
-- Jessica Brand, Patrice Guyenet, Richard Pearson and Janine
Jagger: "Safety Syringe"
-- Donald Hunt, Jeffrey Shabanowitz and George Stafford: "Mass
-- Gerald Mandell and Gail Sullivan: "Inhibition of Inflammatory
-- Joseph Larner: "Insulin Mediators"