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"Genius" inventor Stanford Ovshinsky dies

(Reuters) - Stanford R. Ovshinsky, the Michigan-based inventor whose development of the nickel-metal hydride battery helped the Toyota Prius become the world's first successful hybrid car, died on Wednesday evening, aged 89.

Ovshinsky, a self-taught scientist, also developed -- and often patented -- a wide variety of breakthrough products and processes, from thin-film solar cells to hydrogen fuel cells.

It was his work on the rechargeable NiMH battery, however, that had the broadest reach and greatest impact on consumers. Until being replaced by more advanced lithium-ion batteries, Ovshinsky's patented NiMH battery chemistry was used in millions of devices such as laptop computers, digital cameras and mobile phones.

The cause of death was prostate cancer, according to his son, Harvey Ovshinsky.

Born in 1922 in Akron, Ohio, Stan Ovshinsky moved to Detroit at age 30 to become director of research at automotive and defense supplier Hupp Corp. In 1960, he co-founded Energy Conversion Devices with his second wife, Iris, a PhD chemist.

In 2007, Ovshinsky was forced out of ECD. With his third wife, Rosa, he then established Ovshinsky Innovation and Ovshinsky Solar to continue his research in energy and information technologies.

Ovshinsky was often hailed in the scientific community and by the media. In 1987, he was profiled as "Japan's American Genius" in the PBS television series Nova. In 1999, Time magazine named him a "Hero for the Planet." Britain's Economist magazine in 2006 dubbed Ovshinsky "the Edison of our age."

Ovshinsky held hundreds of patents in the United States and overseas and was awarded honorary doctoral degrees by at least seven schools, including the University of Michigan.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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