La Verne Noyes – Pioneering Inventor and Generous Philanthropist

Dear reader, let me tell you the story of La Verne Noyes, a remarkable innovator, business builder and donor who helped advance wind power technology and provided extensive scholarships through his foundations in the early 20th century. Read on to discover Noyes‘ impactful contributions that still influence engineering and philanthropy today!

From Rural Farmer to Budding Inventor

Noyes was born in 1849 in Genoa, New York before his family relocated to Iowa when he was five as pioneers settling the rural Midwest. He attended Cornell College then enrolled at the newly opened Iowa Agricultural College (later Iowa State University) in 1868, displaying an interest in sciences from a young age.

Graduating in 1872 with a Bachelor of Science degree as part of Iowa Agricultural‘s first ever graduating class of 26 students, Noyes kickstarted his inventing career by working as a laboratory technician. This allowed him to tinker and design various tools and equipment, before leaving to start his own business selling inventions aimed at helping local farmers through optimized machinery.

Creating Technologies to Make Everyday Life Easier

Even Noyes‘ early innovations showcase his knack for using science to solve everyday problems. When his wife Ida, a teacher whom he married in 1877 after meeting in college, struggled to hold heavy books, Noyes devised a clever wire book holder. He patented and manufactured the "Noyes Dictionary Holder," selling this useful product across America after moving to the booming Midwest industrial hub of Chicago in 1879.

Noyes continued filing patents ranging from farming equipment to dentistry tools which he licensed or manufactured through his growing network of companies. But his talents as both inventor and businessman shone brightest when he pioneered transformative new wind energy conversion technology.

Harnessing the Power of Wind to Transform Electricity

In 1886, Noyes worked with engineer Thomas Perry to invent the “aermotor,” a revolutionary device converting wind into electricity. Recognizing the groundbreaking potential of this technology, Noyes founded the Aermotor Company in Chicago in 1887 to develop the first steel windmills capable of generating electricity.

1887Aermotor A1One of the earliest steel windmills manufactured by Aermotor Company
1888Aermotor A2Larger 8-bladed windmill for increased electricity generation
1901Aermotor 12Featured self-governing gears and an advanced winding mechanism

The table above showcases a few of the major wind turbine innovations by the Aermotor Company under Noyes‘ leadership in the late 19th century. These pioneering windmills enabled early electrical transmission from rural areas into growing urban centers. Noyes‘ company also built some of the country‘s first steel towers supporting electricity lines.

By the early 1900s, La Verne Noyes‘ wind technology breakthroughs established him as a prominent inventor, manufacturing equipment that fundamentally shaped modern infrastructure. His Aermotor Company remains an industry leader after 120+ years. But Noyes also left an immense legacy through his postwar philanthropic giving back to his alma mater.

Lasting Impact Through Higher Education Philanthropy

After Noyes‘ wife Ida died unexpectedly in 1912 at only 59, he sought a fitting tribute by donating $500,000 to construct Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago – a beautiful Gothic revival building that still stands today.

Yet his biggest philanthropic gift came in 1918 when Noyes endowed the La Verne Noyes Foundation. This provided needs-based scholarships at the University of Chicago to any descendants of American veterans who served during World War I.

Noyes ultimately gave over $2.5 million in today‘s dollars to these causes. His donations funded scholarships allowing generations of students to access elite education. Just as Noyes‘ 19th century wind turbines drove progress through science, so too did his generosity drive social progress by creating education opportunities.

Over his long inventing career, La Verne Noyes contributed groundbreaking innovations like electrical steel windmills that fundamentally reshaped technology and infrastructure. Yet his charitable foundations may represent an even greater legacy. By using his business fortunes to open doors for students from diverse backgrounds, Noyes pioneered accessible education philanthropy that remains influential today.

So next time you see a wind turbine or hear about scholarships enabling veterans‘ families to attend college, think back to pioneering inventor and philanthropist La Verne Noyes! His desire to create technologies easing everyday life and to generously give back continue impacting engineering and higher education.

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