Nation: The Lonely Passion of Karl E. Smith

The solitary tinkerer, an archetypical figure of American technology, has widely been replaced by corporate research and development teams armed with computers. Still, some lonely inventors do survive. TIME'S Timothy Tyler visited one of them:

KARL E. SMITH, 54, is a shy, forlorn man who is almost marooned in his solitude. To find him, a visitor heads north from Fresno, Calif., and up into the Sierras, following a single-lane trail that winds endlessly along 9,000-ft. precipices. Finally, the traveler arrives at Florence Lake, and there is Karl, smiling nervously, waiting in rumpled cowboy clothes, wearing a three-day beard and smelling of horses....

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