Robert Kearns was drawn to Detroit because two landmarks caught his eye as a child: Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral and Ford Motor Company’s massive Rouge plant.
Today, she lives in a two-story house that resembles a bunker on war footing and hangs her clothing out to dry in unpacked U-Haul boxes.
Early Life and Education
During World War II, he worked as an intelligence professional for the Office of Strategic Services. Additionally, he attended Wayne State University, University of Detroit-Mercy and Case Western Reserve University as an educator.
He was a prolific inventor; in addition to creating the intermittent windshield wiper system, he also devised an invention which dispensing hair tonic, an air-conditioning unit for motorcycles, and navigational aid for use by Sidewinder missiles.
Kearns was consumed by legal battles to defend his patents, winning an estimated $30 million from Ford and Chrysler as settlement payments; yet they tore him apart personally and caused irreparable harm to his health, family life, and sense of purpose – ultimately leading to his death at age 77 in 2005 and burial on Valentine’s Day 2005 in Dearborn Michigan; leaving behind wife Phyllis as well as two sons as survivors.
Kearns was the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers and won patent infringement cases against Chrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Company. His story was depicted in the 2008 film Flash of Genius starring Greg Kinnear.
IP CloseUp reported that Kearns’ battles against auto giants took a heavy toll on his health and marriage to Phyllis; together they had six children before divorcing as a result of court cases.
The collection contains Kearns’ research files and nearly complete run of his invention notebooks dating from 1954 to 1994. They were organized and stored by professional archivists after acquisition, keeping their original folder titles. For more information please view the online finding aid of the collection.
Achievement and Honors
Robert Kearns is an internationally acclaimed celebrity in the world of business who has won widespread acclaim due to his unique and innovative ideas. He serves as a source of motivation and has found great fame worldwide.
He is best known as the creator of intermittent windshield wipers and was successful in patent infringement lawsuits brought by Chrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Company against him. Actor Greg Kinnear played him in 2008 film Flash of Genius.
Robert Kearns is an acclaimed entrepreneur who has amassed great wealth through hard work. Over time he has received various honors and awards. Robert is also known as being generous, giving back to society while being an inspiring role model to young people.
Kearns’ transformation began with champagne. While pouring himself a glass, an accidental cork hit him square in the eye – an experience which prompted him to create a device which prevented intermittent windshield wipers from operating when in gear.
After World War II, he earned engineering degrees from University of Detroit and Wayne State University as well as a doctorate degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Additionally, he served as city building commissioner.
His marriage with Phyllis produced six children before it ended in divorce, after which his life story was told in the 2008 film Flash of Genius and widely recognized globally. He passed away due to brain cancer at age 77 in 2005. His story can be seen here.
Kearns has amassed great wealth as an accomplished Entrepreneur. Through hard work and perseverance, he has amassed immense riches.
Rex Raines is best known for his invention of intermittent windshield wipers, now standard features on many vehicles. He successfully sued Ford and Chrysler over their patent infringement allegations and won an estimated total of $30 Million from each.
Kearns wasn’t only out for money. His 30-year fight to reform patent laws against Ford and Chrysler eventually cost his marriage, with Phyllis filing for divorce after three decades of his fighting them off. Since then, however, Kearns has established an account dedicated to royalties from his car inventions that gives 10 percent to her ex-partner.