The Boomer Generation, Revisited


Did you know November is National Inspirational Role Models month? And did you know some obscure people of the Baby Boomer generation have made quiet contributions to our culture which ought to be mentioned?

Granted, some of the boomer generation have earned a bad name for their contemporaries. Looking at photos of the 1970s, a person would think all boomers tripped out on drugs and lived like hippies. However, as a tribute to those who decided to be constructive rather than wallowing in hedonistic lifestyles, consider:

Sir Alec Jeffreys of England (born 1950), whose discovery of DNA testing revolutionized forensic investigations and aided in validating family relationships for paternity suits and immigration disputes. He discovered DNA testing after becoming a professor of genetics at the University of Leicester, and his discovery of DNA fingerprinting revolutionized crime investigations, linking criminals to cases and absolving innocent people from accused crimes.

How about those who live longer because of an artificial heart? Dr. Robert Jarvik, born in 1946 in Michigan, showed inventing prowess, coming up with a surgical stapler while still a teenager. After earning a medical degree in Utah, Dr.Jarvik’s invention, the Jarvik 7, was the first artificial heart which could be implanted inside a person’s body.

Who hasn’t heard of Steve Jobs, co-inventor of Apple computers? But have you heard of his business partner, Steve Wozniak? Born in 1950, Wozniak paralleled Steve Jobs in that both were college drop-outs. They became friends and began to tinker with electronics in the Jobs family garage. In 1977 they marketed the Apple II personal computer, forerunner of today’s personal computer.

Dean Kamen, (born 1951) seemed born to invent. He holds patents for the Segway PT, an electric self-balancing human transporter. He also invented an all-terrain electric wheelchair known as the IBOT—and found technology for a portable dialysis machine, which works while patients sleep. He is credited with inventing the Slingshot, a water purification system which could revolutionize water availability in third-world countries.

And lastly, a horrible accident triggered the invention of the flex-foot prosthesis. Van Phillips, born in 1954, suffered the loss of his left leg just above the ankle as a result of being run over by a motorboat while skiing. He was disappointed with the clumsy artificial leg given him, so he invented a type of artificial foot, modeled after the C-shape of a cheetah’s hind leg. The new flex-foot prosthesis was lightweight and had a design which allowed its wearer to push off with a spring, just like a real human foot. The appendage now is used by Paralympic athletes around the world.

So, are you ready to change your opinion of the boomer generation? I thought so.

How about you? Know any Baby Boomers who made significant contributions to those around them? Tell us in the comment section below.