Ini sedutan kisah beliau yang PHD ambil dari sebuah artikel yang ditulis oleh rakannya :
Determination and a Flash of Genius
Kearns and I got to know each other 16 years ago. I was a newspaper reporter, and he was still fighting companies that had used his patents without paying a cent in royalties. At the time, he kept an apartment in Houston because that’s where his lawyers were based.
While some newspapers had carried accounts of his legal battles, there’d been very few attempts to tell his life story in full. So when we sat down in 1992, Bob Kearns was unknown and uncelebrated, a story waiting to be told.
Luckily for me, it was a great story and Bob Kearns was a great storyteller. You didn’t have to probe and prod this man. All you had to do was find him, convince him your interest was sincere, and hold on for the ride.
Kearns’ invention was inspired by an accident—a champagne cork hitting him in the face on his wedding night. The accident left him virtually blind in his left eye, but also left him fascinated with blinking and the human eye’s ability to clean itself at regular intervals. “The Good Lord lets your eyelids blink,” Kearns told me. “That is what intermittent wipe does. It lets a car’s eyelids blink.”
When he went to work in his basement laboratory in 1962, others were trying to come up with the same invention. But they didn’t think to use transistors, a newfangled device in those days. Kearns figured it out first, installed the invention in his Ford Galaxie, and took his invention to the engineers at Ford Motor Co.
Kearns was reluctant to share with Ford the details of his work, but if he wanted a deal, he had to show them the goods. According to Kearns, a jury, and the new movie, Ford grabbed his invention and ran.
Kearns was convinced he’d been cheated, but didn’t think all the other automakers had followed suit. Not until his oldest son, Dennis, brought him the wiper unit off a Mercedes Benz. “I could see it was a copy of my work,” Kearns told me. “This was the Germans, the great engineers.”
Realizing in an instant that his life’s work had been stolen, Kearns emotionally broke down. He boarded a bus and began wandering aimlessly. He hallucinated that he was going to Australia, that President Nixon had commissioned him to build an electric car.
When the police finally found him in Tennessee, he was carrying a child’s kite under his arm. He told me the kite was symbolic of the years of his children’s youth that he had sacrificed, seemingly for nothing.
Like the other aspects of his story, Kearns offered all of this information willingly. I had never heard or read about the breakdown, but he wasn’t one to gloss over the rough patches. Kearns wasn’t exactly charming, but he was compelling and often talked with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was 65, and his hair was white as alabaster against pink skin.
At this point in his life, he looked a lot more like Warren Buffett than Greg Kinnear. And I knew with utter certainty that I liked and admired this man when he said: “If anyone wants to say I’m a nut, well, OK.” Leaning forward and tapping his chest lightly, he added, “but I know I’m not.”
After the Tennessee State Police picked him up with his kite, Kearns was placed in a mental institution for two weeks. It looked like the end of the road. For most people—for most sensible people—the story would have ended there. But Bob Kearns was not most sensible people.
Kearns got out of the hospital and, before long, started suing auto makers. At first they stonewalled him, but he persisted. He filed his first lawsuit in 1978, but the first trial did not take place for 12 long years. In time, the tide gradually turned. Ford offered to settle without admitting it had stolen the invention. Even when the offer hit a staggering $30 million, Kearns would not budge.
He was a man who clung to the purity of absolutes. Right was right, and compromise was weakness. “It was his Jesuit upbringing,” his oldest son, Dennis, told me recently. “His world was black and white.”
Kearns was willing to pay the price of his convictions, but his family bore a heavy burden, too. The strain proved too much for his marriage, and he and his wife separated in 1980 and divorced in 1989.
Life certainly could have been easier for his six children. “It might not have been easy, but it was normal to us because that was how our life was,” Dennis said. “We did not want him to quit. We wanted him to win.”
Dennis Kearns marvels at some of the things the movie got right. Like the dining room furniture on the set—“That’s the exact same furniture we had in our house.”
Greg Kinnear wore an old Omega watch, a dead ringer for the one Kearns wore. And his suits were close enough to make Bob Kearns’ old friends swear they’d seen him in the very same clothes. “My family is very happy with the movie,” Dennis Kearns said. “Greg Kinnear did a fantastic job.”
Bob Kearns worked with screenwriters at the beginning of the project, but he died before the movie entered production and never met the actor who played him onscreen.
While the movie is faithful to Kearns’ life, if does take liberties. He did not steal the wiper unit out of a car to determine if the automakers had stolen his invention. He did not represent himself in the Ford case, but he did serve as his own lawyer in the case against Chrysler in 1991-92.
After that case, he would hire more lawyers—and feud with them as he had the ones that went before. As one of those lawyers told me, Kearns was an easy guy to get along with, until you butted heads. He did not save his uncompromising nature for the auto companies.
Flash of Genius suggests that Kearns was a relatively young guy with young kids when the money poured in, but that is not how it really worked out. When we met in 1992, the 65-year-old Kearns had won $10.2 million from Ford, but had spent most of that on legal fees, income taxes and a divorce settlement. With what was left, he bought a farmhouse in Maryland and helped fix up a church back in his old hometown of Detroit.
The previous year, Kearns had won $18.7 million from Chrysler, but that case was being appealed and he had not collected a dime. “I am not a rich man, not at all,” Kearns told me. “If I had known how all this would turn out, I probably wouldn’t have started.”
But it was clear that Kearns loved the fight, no matter how bruising it turned out to be. I wondered if he knew what he’d do with himself if his fight ever finished. “I don’t have a life outside this lawsuit,” he admitted. “Once you start something like this, there is no turning back.”
But the essential fact is Kearns never turned back, never gave up, and never gave in. He fought until he was vindicated. The millions started to pour in around 1995, but he was dead of brain cancer within 10 years.
“The money did not change my dad’s life, but he didn’t need a lot of money,” Dennis Kearns told me recently. “He made the world a better place for other inventors. So it was worth it, not because of what he got out of it, but because of what the world got out of it. And now because of this movie, his story will keep on going.”
If that sounds a bit too fanciful and high-minded, you haven’t spent enough time with Bob Kearns. I’d say it pretty much hits the nail on the head.
But what would Kearns have thought of his story in the hands of Hollywood?
“In general, he would have liked it,” Dennis Kearns said. “But you know my dad—he would have wanted the movie to have every legal argument and every electronic fact. It would have been five hours long, and it would have put everyone in the theater to sleep.”
Editor’s Note: Greg Hassell is a contributing writer for The Buzz Magazines. If you have a new adventure for Greg to write about, please e-mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.