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William Kamkwamba

Mar 04, 2011

Co-author of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind"

CONTACT: Catharine Lamm

FREE public lecture
Monday, October 19th, 4:15pm
Spanos Auditorium, Cummings Hall
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Like most boys in his village in Malawi, William Kamkwamba grew up believing that magic ruled the world and hardship dominated life. As the only boy of seven children, he dutifully helped his father with the family's farming while also tending to his studies. Like most Malawians, he routinely went to bed early, right after dark, because kerosene to light lamps was very expensive (besides producing thick, black smoke that burned his eyes and made him cough).

The year he turned thirteen, William also went to bed hungry. In 2000, a drought struck Malawi and devastated the country's maize crops, resulting in the worst famine in fifty years. The following year, William had to drop out of school because his parents could no longer afford the $80-a-year tuition. While seeking a distraction from boredom and starvation, he discovered something that dramatically changed the course of his future: the miracles of science.

In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity & Hope, he shares the story of how he achieved his dream of bringing electricity, light, and the promise of a better life to his family and his village. It started with a bicycle dynamo—basically, a pedal-powered wheel that generates light. This taste of electricity (a luxury enjoyed by just two percent of Malawians) filled William with a desire to create his own. Before long, his scientific curiosity sent him on a quest to a build a windmill. Besides dealing with all sorts of financial obstacles and technical difficulties, William had to become a self-taught physicist, overcome local superstitions, and withstand being mocked for his "crazy" ideas.

About the Authors

William Kamkwamba, 22, is a senior at African Leadership Academy, a pan-African high school in Johannesburg, South Africa. A 2007 and 2009 TEDGlobal Fellow, Kamkwamba has been profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and his inventions displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. He's often invited to tell his story at such venues as the World Economic Forum in Africa, CES, Aspen Ideas Festival, Maker Faire Africa and the African Economic Forum.

Bryan Mealer is the author of All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, which chronicled his experience covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mealer is a former Associated Press staff correspondent and his work has appeared in several magazines, including Harper's and Esquire.

Kamkwamba on The Daily Show

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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