I received this background report on Bill Wattenburg by way of a government agency. It was prepared by a private investigation firm that was hired to check Bill out for a TV network that was interested in hiring him (Bill turned down the offer since it would have meant leaving California and his research projects). I suspect that the investigators promised copies of the report to the agencies interviewed in exchange for their cooperation in the preparation of the report. The report was written between 1990 and 1993, but is still timely and fascinating.
Although he grew up as the son of a logger in the Sierras, he attended U.C. Berkeley—starting his freshman year at the age of 15—and Chico State, and even studied under Edward Teller for his graduate degree in physics. After finishing his double Ph.D. at Berkeley (Electrical Engineering and Physics) he served as a professor at Berkeley for several years, and since then has been involved in a great deal of government scientific research, including designing the guidance computers for NASA’s Apollo moon missions and developing procedures for underground nuclear testing.
Bill’s combinations of experiences and scientific background give him a great wealth of knowledge that he applies to entertain and inform his audience. It also lands him in the national and world news every now and then. You might recall hearing about when he developed an effective, extremely inexpensive land-mine clearing device around the time of the Iraq war, known as the “helicopter minesweeper”. Or his method of using surplus railroad flatcars to build emergency freeway bridges in times of earthquakes or floods. These are but a couple of his inventions.
If some of what you read seems hard to believe, then this quote from a very well known scientist who has worked with Bill should serve as a good introduction:
“If anyone has spent $10 or $20 million on a difficult technical problem and not found a solution, they probably should have asked Bill Wattenburg First.”
While I had no involvement in preparing this report, I can attest—having listened to his show since the mid 1980’s and having talked with him by e-mail and phone since 1996—to the fact that it accurately describes his personality and many of his traits.—Peter K. Sheerin.
After finishing the above report, you may want to check out these other tidbits that I have compiled and edited.
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