(SC) Here We Have Idaho Aug. 2011
Honorary Degree: Dr. Forrest Bird (364 words)
Inventor Sparks Kids’ Love of Discovery
By Paula M. Davenport
When he isn’t tweaking a line of life-saving devices he invented or teaching doctors how best to use them, 90-year-old Dr. Forrest Morton Bird is usually holding court with a gaggle of excited school children.
A globally respected biomedical engineer, inventor and avid pilot, Dr. Bird annually welcomes hundreds of school children to an interactive science museum he and his wife, Pamela, founded in Sandpoint.
The Birds have dedicated themselves to sharing with this younger generation a love of discovery and scientific exploration. “If we can hook just one of them we’re happy. But I think we’re doing better than that,” Dr. Bird said with a smile.
Chances are the inventor has positively impacted your life or the life of a loved one, too. He pioneered mechanical ventilators, now found in nearly all American and many foreign hospitals. The devices have saved countless premature babies and legions of adults.
The University of Idaho extolled Dr. Bird and his colossal contributions to mankind with an honorary doctorate of science degree, bestowed at spring commencement.
Because of the University’s time-honored reputation, being so honored makes it poignant, Bird said.
It helps underscore perhaps the most vital lesson of all: That higher education is a must today, he said.
“That’s why the most successful entrepreneurs come through universities,” he added. In addition to foundational knowledge, college offers opportunities for students to learn to communicate and get along with one another, he said. (ditto)
“It’s teams of people working together on specific issues who are increasingly making the most sophisticated advancements,” Bird said.
He is quick to credit all the other physicians, researchers and willing patients who’ve been on his teams. “It wasn’t just me alone,” he said.
He is reminded of that every Christmas when letters, cards and pictures arrive from some of the now-grown preemies who have thrived because he created the Baby Bird respirator for infants.
Decades of trial and error fade in their wake. “It makes you feel pretty darned good,” he said.