April 22, 2024

He said in his memoir, A Witness of Grace (2008), that he was the unwanted child of an agnostic religion professor at Yale University, with whom his mother had never had any contact. With no friends other than three siblings, a family dog, and a maid, he grew up alone in an emotionally distant home with dyslexia. At 12, he was sent to a private boarding school and heard little from his parents.

Through patience, counseling, and an intense struggle for self-improvement, he overcame dyslexia. He studied Latin and Greek at Groton, mathematics at Yale, meteorology in the Army Air Forces during World War II, and studied with Clarence Ziner, Edward Teller, and Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago , and received a Ph.D. in physics in 1952.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he was part of a team at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory that helped lay the groundwork for random-access memory (RAM) in computers and developed plans for America’s first air defense system. In 1976, as federal funding for his work at MIT ended, he moved to Oxford to teach and manage a chemistry laboratory, where he began battery research.

Essentially, a battery is a device that moves charged atoms (called ions) from one side to the other, creating an electrical current that powers anything connected to the battery. The two sides are called electrodes, and carry an electric charge—the negative charge is called the anode, and the positive charge is called the cathode. The medium through which ions move between them is the electrolyte.

When the battery releases energy, positively charged ions shuttle from the anode to the cathode, creating an electric current. Plugging the rechargeable battery into an outlet for power forces the ions to shuttle back to the anode, where they are stored until needed again. The materials used for the anode, cathode, and electrolyte determine the number and velocity of ions, and thus the power of the battery.

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