The inventor

Name: Dean Kamen

Age: 51

Home base: Manchester, N.H.

Education: The self-taught physicist and mechanical engineer dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1973 to develop a portable infusion pump, the first of many innovative medical devices he's invented.

Other inventions: The multimillionaire idealist holds more than 150 U.S. and foreign patents, mostly for medical apparatus, climate control systems and helicopter designs. Among his most famous inventions is the iBOT -- a wheelchair that can walk up stairs and roll over sand, rocks and curbs. He's working on a nonpolluting Stirling engine that purifies water and generates power.

Pet project: U.S. First (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit that encourages kids to pursue careers in science by matching high school students with engineers from nearby companies and sponsoring a national robot-building competition.

His hopes for the Segway: It "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy."

On riding a Segway: "When you walk, you're really in what's called a controlled fall. You off-balance yourself, putting one foot in front of the other and falling onto them over and over again. In the same way, when you use a Segway, there's a gyroscope that acts like your inner ear, a computer that acts like your brain, motors that act like your muscles, wheels that act like your feet. Suddenly, you feel like you have on a pair of magic sneakers, and instead of falling forward, you go sailing across the room."

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