Dream Makers

Great ideas spring from many sources in many different ways. Here are four case studies of modern inventors at work--whether alone or in collaboration with other creative minds

THE BIRD WATCHER

In the middle of a conversation in his office at AeroVironment, the high-tech company he founded and heads, Paul MacCready suddenly pauses, apologizes, opens a notebook already jam-packed with sketches and notes and jots down a new idea. "I've got a restless mind that just sort of darts around," he says apologetically.

This modest explanation hardly does justice to a cerebral process that has resulted in the world's first successful man-powered and solar-powered aircraft, earned its owner the title of Engineer of the Century from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and won him worldwide acclaim. Now at...

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