The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACCGH) hosted
a very successful dinner meeting with Dr. John Lienhard
on February 13th at the Briar Club. The sold
out event was attended by a wide spectrum of people
whose common interest lay in the brilliant mind of Dr.
Lienhard. His program "Engines of our
Ingenuity" is aired twice daily on KUHF 88.7. Dr.
Lienhard averages fifty speaking engagements in a year.
The chamber was very fortunate to get a speaker of such
high caliber to come address the members and guests.
Over a sumptuous dinner the attendees networked with
their peers and gained valuable business contacts. Mr.
Jagdip Ahluwalia, Vice President, opened up the evening,
by welcoming everyone to this unique event of listening
to a much sought after speaker live. On behalf of the
Chamber Mr. Ahluwalia thanked Worldwide Oilfield
Machines for partly sponsoring the event. He also
thanked Mr. Vijay Goradia and Dr. Durga Agrawal for
sponsoring students from the University of Houston and
Rice. Mr. Ashoke Nath, President of the Chamber, briefly
welcomed some of the distinguished guest such as Dr.
William Fitzgibbon, Professor of Mathematics at
University of Houston to the event. On behalf of the
Chamber he also welcomed new members of the board Mr.
Somesh Singh of BMC and Mr. Paul Likhari of Bioassay
Dr. Durga Agrawal introduced the speaker and gave a
brief over view of his many accomplishments. John H.
Lienhard is the M.D. Anderson Professor of Mechanical
Engineering and History at the University of Houston
where he has taught since 1980. Dr. Lienhard holds a
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of
California at Berkeley. Known for his research in the
thermal sciences as well as in cultural history, he is
the author or co-author of four books and more than 300
articles. Dr. Lienhard is the author and voice of more
than 1,400 episodes of The Engines of Our Ingenuity,
a daily public radio series about machines and the
people who created them. Transcripts of all episodes are
available on the Engines web site at www.uh.edu/engines.
For his work on Engines, ASME awarded him the
1998 Engineer Historian award and the 1989 Ralph Coates
Roe Award for contributions to the public understanding
of technology. American Women in Radio and Television
honored him with the1991 Portrait Division Award.
He is an Honorary Member of the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and a fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In
1991 the University of Houston presented Dr. Lienhard
with its highest faculty honor, the Esther Farfel Award
for excellence in research, teaching and service to his
profession and the community.
Dr. Lienhard�s talk was on "Innovations,
A Dangerous Guest- Do you really want creative people in
Dr. Lienhard recounted the failed Cyclo-Crane
invention, which embodied the relationship between
invention and business. Technology cannot flourish, said
Dr. Lienhard, without somebody taking a risk on it. The
reckless people, who are willing to take risks, survive
and every generation has its risk takers. Writer Melvin
Konner explains that psychologists identify four faces
of a risk-taker. They are: One the thrill and adventure
seeking; two experience seeking; three uninhibited;
fourth boredom susceptibility. These four faces fit Dr.
Lienhard�s idea of an inventive mind. Invention is the
primal act of human recklessness. We are the only
species to give the fruit of our invention over to the
Dr. Lienhard chooses to invent a word, Panvention- a
noun, made by combining the Greek word Pan,
which means all of us and invention.
Panvention is a part of every human�s life. It is
essential to every level of human improvement and
everyone has done it for as long as they can remember.
But, we are reminded, when we invent new technologies,
things bite back. He refers to Edward Tenner�s book
�Why Things Bite Back�. Safety devices lull us into
believing we are safe, but when we mess with the natural
order of things, things bites back. New technologies
have improved the quality of life. Medical procedures
have reduced the time we spend in hospitals and hastened
recovery, but the number of procedures and medications a
patient needs, has gone up dramatically. Tenner calls
this the Revenge effect.
The same thing applies to the engineering systems
that a lot of people in the group deal with. Complex
devices produce revenge effects. Computers have made a
lot of work simpler, but it has made some things more
complex and produced a different set of health problems.
Does that mean that we turn away from new technology? No
says Dr. Lienhard, " The day we quit pioneering, we
quit being human". But we need to be alert to early
warnings and be ready to back off when necessary. If we
fail to heed the warnings, then nature bites back.
In closing Dr. Lienhard said that if we want to
embrace invention and reap its benefits, we have to be
prepared to embrace five things; Risk, Sharing, Freedom,
Pleasure and Fear. Fear of being sealed off by society,
one has to be brave to be inventive. The very
interesting talk was followed by a spirited round of
questions and answers.