Synopses & Reviews
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy
, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala — crazy — but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.
Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.
Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity — electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.
Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo — his electric wind — spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.
Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.
"American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba's description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops ('three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen'), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors 'disguised... as green grass' and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is 'replaced by the business of survival' after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family's small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family's struggle, Kamkwamba's supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using 'electric wind'(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm. Kamkwamba's efforts were of course derided; salvaging a motley collection of materials, from his father's broken bike to his mother's clothes line, he was often greeted to the tune of 'Ah, look, the madman has come with his garbage.' This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“This book.... is a testament to the power of a dream and the freedom that comes from accomplishing a sustainable way of life. Read this book, act on its message and pass it on.” Carter Roberts, President & CEO, WWF
“A rare and inspiring story of hope in rural Africa....William represents a new generation of Africans, using ingenuity and invention to overcome lifes challenges. Where so many tilt at windmills, William builds them!” Erik Hersman, AfriGadget.com
“An inspiring tale of an African Cheetah--the new generation of young Africans who wont sit and wait for corrupt and incompetent governmentsor vampire states to come and do things for them. Here is one who harnessed the wind to generate electricity for his villageon his own.” Professor George Ayittey, Distinguished Economist, American University
“William will challenge everything you have thought about Africa, about young people, and about the power of one person to transform a community. This beautifully written book will open your heart and mind. I was moved by William and his story and believe you all will. Essential, powerful and compelling.” Chris Abani, author of Graceland
“This is an amazing, inspiring and heartwarming story! Its about harnessing the power not just of the wind, but of imagination and ingenuity. Those are the most important forces we have for saving our planet. William Kamkwamba is a hero for our age.” Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin
“This book is inspirational. What William did took nothing more than initiative and a little learning.... Theres never been a better time to Do It Yourself, and I love how much we can learn from those who often have no other choice.” Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of Free and The Long Tail
“A powerful read. This book takes you on a journey to discover pure innovation and the unfolding story of a natural genius. A true vision of struggle and tenacity to make a bold idea become a reality. This should be required reading for anyone who dares to dream.” Cameron Sinclair, Eternal Optimist, Architecture for Humanity
“One of the best books Ive ever read.” Mark Frauenfelder, founder of boingboing.net, editor in chief of MAKE
“The book abounds with themes that resonate deeply: the idea that with hard work and persistence comes triumph; that optimism is not a mental state but a type of action, that from grief and loss can come success.” Nathaniel Whittemore, Change.org
“I was moved first to laughter, and then to tears by Williams explanation of how he turned some PVC pipe, a broken bicycle and some long wooden poles into a machine capable of generating sufficient current to power lights and a radio in his parents house. Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder, Global Voices
“This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A moving, touching, important story. One more reminder of how small the world is and how powerful the human spirit can be.” Seth Godin, author of Tribes
“William Kamkwamba is an alchemist who turned misfortune into opportunity, opportunity beyond his own. The book is about learning by inventing. Williams genius was to be ingenious.” Nicholas Negroponte, founder, MIT Media Lab, founder and chairman, One Laptop per Child
“I loved this enchanting story of a humble young hero from an impoverished African village who accomplished a miracle with scrap materials and unstoppable enthusiasm. What an inspiration!” Mark Frauenfelder, founder of boingboing.net, editor in chief of MAKE
“Wonderful! I challenge you to read this story of one young man changing his corner of the world with nothing but intelligence and perseverance and not come away more hopeful about the prospects for a brighter, greener future.” Alex Steffen, editor, Worldchanging.com
“Beyond opening the door to a nascent genre of African Innovation literature, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind makes excuses about why Africans cant change their fates untenable. This potent, powerful, and uplifting message is the heart of William Kamkwambas courageous story.” Emeka Okafor, internationally acclaimed author of blogs Timbuktu Chronicles and Africa Unchained
“William Kamkwambas achievements with wind energy should serve as a model of what one person, with an inspired idea, can do to tackle the crisis we face. His book tells a moving and exciting story.” Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate
“ In this book, the spirit, resilience and resourcefulness that are Africas greatest strengths shine through.... The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable story about a remarkable young man and his inquisitive and inventive mind.” Amy Smith, founder, D-Lab, MIT
“I first met William on stage at TED.... His story, told in just a couple of minutes, was both astonishing and exhilarating. This book proves what those few minutes hinted at: a remarkable individual capable of inspiring many to take their future into their own hands.” Chris Anderson, TED Curator
andldquo;A corrective to Africaandrsquo;s image as a dark, hopeless placeandhellip;A hopeful narrative about a continent on the rise.andrdquo; andmdash;The New York Times
andquot;The author gives a multitude of examples and a huge mass of fascinating detail. Her case is persuasive...for anyone who wants to understand how the African economy really works, he Bright Continent is a good place to start.andquot; andmdash;Reuters
andldquo;Bright Continent will change your view of Africa. Itand#39;s that simple. Dayo Olopade looks with the eyes of a first-generation Nigerian-American and sees a landscape of ingenuity, technological innovation, and grit. A lively and enjoyable read.andrdquo; andmdash;Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation and Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University
andldquo;[Olopade] seamlessly traverses the continent, threading a narrative that shows how African innovation is playing a vital role in its own developmentandhellip;This book is filled with numerous examples that ought to make you rethink your perceptions of Africa.andrdquo; andmdash;The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
andquot;Together, these maps form a new mental and strategic landscape, one based on possibilities, not merely perils, and we should be grateful to Olopade for her reimagined cartography.andquot; andmdash;The Plain Dealer
andquot;Dayo Olopade has written a book that bracingly lives up to its title. In it, an Africa we are all too unaccustomed to seeing comes vividly to life thanks to her restless eye and keen curiosity. It is one of local solutions born of necessity and local heroes who arise from even the most fragile soil.andquot; andmdash;Howard French, Associate Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and author of A Continent for the Taking
andldquo;This book captures the complex thoughts of a whole generation of young Africans. Olapode shows Africa as it is, a complicated space occupied by real people with the desire and the power to shape our futures.andrdquo; andmdash;Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation and editor of Ventures Africa Magazine
andldquo;The Bright Continent is a long overdue and much needed corrective to the dominant perception of Africa. It is a book loaded with revelations of heroic, and often ingenious lives, all of which are eloquently and poignantly brought to life through Dayoandrsquo;s brilliant observations.andrdquo; andmdash;Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and All Our Name
andquot;The Bright Continent is an absolute brightness. Sidestepping dead-end debates, the indefatigable Olopade maps out a contemporary Africa which is vital and self-reliant. Her definition of the Yoruba term kanju as and#39;specific creativity born from African difficultyand#39; will enter the English language. Through strong reporting and clear thinking, Olopade demonstrates how to improve the lives of African youth stuck in a purgatory of and#39;waithood.and#39; This is essential reading.andquot; andmdash;J.M. Ledgard, Director, Future Africa, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and longtime Africa correspondent, The Economist
andldquo;In her debut book, Nigerian-American journalist Olopade finds qualified cause for optimism about Africaandrsquo;s futureandhellip;A refreshingly hopeful argument, well-grounded in data and observationandmdash;of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, demographics and economic trends.andrdquo; andmdash;Kirkus
andquot;Nigerian-American journalist Olopadeandrsquo;s first book rebuts the view of Africa as mired in poverty, war, and failed aid projects, and instead offers a hopeful perspective.andquot; andmdash;Publishers Weekly
andquot;Here isand#160;the amazing story of an unbelievable boyand#160;
andmdash; somebody who seems more like a figure out of fiction (science fiction, to be specific) than reality. But the story is true, the boy is true, and the science is true. And the world that opens up to us through his story is bothand#160;fascinating and slightly terrifying...but in a good way
. You wonand#39;t be able to walk away from this tale.andquot; --Elizabeth Gilbert, author ofand#160;Eat, Pray, Love
and#160;andand#160;The Signature of All Things
andquot;Imagine if cartoon whiz-kid Jimmy Neutron were real and had a brainchild with MacGyver and his adolescence got told asand#160;a rollicking bildungsroman about American prodigies and DIY nuclear reactorsandmdash;well, thatandrsquo;s this book.andquot; and#160;--Jack Hitt, author ofand#160;Bunch of Amateurs.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160; and#160;and#160;
andquot;Clynes guides us onand#160;an engrossing journey to the outer realms of science and parenting, andquot;The Boy Who Played with Fusionandquot; isand#160;a fascinating exploration of andquot;giftednessandquot; and all its consequences. --Paul Greenberg, author ofand#160;Four Fishand#160;andand#160;American Catch
Popular Science contributing editor Clynes (Music Festivals From Bach to Blues: A Travellers Guide, 1996, etc.) uses the story of Taylor Wilsonandmdash;who, at age 14, became andquot;one of only thirty-two individuals on the planet to build a working fusion reactor, a miniature sun on Earthandquot;andmdash;to illustrate the potential for improving our educational system. andquot;What does it take to identify and develop the raw material of talent and turn it into exceptional accomplishment? How do we parent and educate extraordinarily determined and intelligent children and help them reach their potential?andquot; These are the questions the author seeks to answer in this enlightening book. Clynes first learned about Taylor in 2010 when he was interviewing members of a small community of andquot;nuclear physics enthusiasts.andquot; At the time, Taylor was attending the Davidson Academy, an experimental secondary school in Reno that offered students the opportunity to attend classes at the University of Nevada-Reno. Taylor enrolled in physics seminars and had successfully completed a project to build a tabletop fusion reactor that allowed him to study the properties of different materials. The family had moved to Reno so that Taylor could take advantage of the Davidson opportunity. His father was a successful entrepreneur who had fostered Taylorand#39;s developing interest in science, beginning at age 6, with his fascination with rocket propulsion. Although he had no technical training himself, Wilson enlisted the help of more knowledgeable friends from the community to help his son safely pursue experiments with rockets. Clynes chronicles Taylorand#39;s development since their first meeting, during which time he invented a prototype for a andquot;hundred-thousand-dollar tabletop nuclear fusion device that could produce medical isotopes as precisely as the multimillion-dollar cyclotron or linear accelerator facilities could,andquot; as well as a highly sensitive, low-dose device for identifying nuclear terrorists. Clynes makes a persuasive case for allowing gifted children the freedom and resources to pursue their interests. and#160;---KIRKUS Reviews
This immensely engaging tale relates how an enterprising teenager in Malawi builds a windmill from scraps he finds around his village and brings electricity — and a future — to his family.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the immensely engaging and inspiring true account of an enterprising African teenager who constructed a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his entire community. William Kamkwamba shares the remarkable story of his youth in Malawi, Africa—a nation crippled by intense poverty, famine, and the AIDS plague—and how, with tenacity and imagination, he built a better life for himself, his family, and his village. The poignant and uplifting story of Kamkwambas inspiration and personal triumph, co-written with Bryan Mealer, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has already won ringing praise from former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore as well as Paolo Coelho, internationally bestselling author of The Alchemist.
An exciting new voice offers a fresh portrait of Africans thriving in the face of adversity, showing the way forward for development on the continent and beyond.
The path to progress in Africa lies in the surprising and innovative solutions Africans are finding for themselves
Africa is a continent on the move. Itandrsquo;s often hard to notice, thoughandmdash;the Western focus on governance and foreign aid obscures the individual dynamism and informal social adaptation driving the past decade of African development. Dayo Olopade set out across sub-Saharan Africa to find out how ordinary people are dealing with the challenges they face every day. She discovered an unexpected Africa: resilient, joyful, and innovative, a continent of DIY changemakers and impassioned community leaders.
Everywhere Olopade went, she witnessed the specific creativity born from African difficultyandmdash;a trait she began calling kanju. Itandrsquo;s embodied by bootstrapping innovators like Kenneth Nnebue, who turned his low-budget, straight-to-VHS movies into a multimillion-dollar film industry known as Nollywood. Or Soyapi Mumba, who helped transform cast-off American computers into touchscreen databases that allow hospitals across Malawi to process patients in seconds. Or Ushahidi, the Kenyan technology collective that crowdsources citizen activism and disaster relief.
The Bright Continent calls for a necessary shift in our thinking about Africa. Olopade shows us that the increasingly globalized challenges Africa faces can and must be addressed with the tools Africans are already using to solve these problems themselves. Africaandrsquo;s ability to do more with lessandmdash;to transform bad government and bad aid into an opportunity to innovateandmdash;is a clear ray of hope amidst the dire headlines and a powerful model for the rest of the world.
An account of child genius Taylor Wilsonand#8217;s successful quest to build his own nuclear reactor at the age of fourteen, and an exploration of how gifted children can be nurtured to do extraordinary things.
How an American teenager became the youngest person ever to build a working nuclear fusion reactorand#160;
By the age of nine, Taylor Wilson had mastered the science of rocket propulsion. At eleven, his grandmotherandrsquo;s cancer diagnosis drove him to investigate new ways to produce medical isotopes. And by fourteen, Wilson had built a 500-million-degree reactor and become the youngest person in history to achieve nuclear fusion. How could someone so young achieve so much, and what can Wilsonandrsquo;s story teach parents and teachers about how to support high-achieving kids?
In The Boy Who Played with Fusion, science journalist Tom Clynes narrates Taylor Wilsonandrsquo;s extraordinary journeyandmdash;from his Arkansas home where his parents fully supported his intellectual passions, to a unique Reno, Nevada, public high school just for academic superstars, to the present, when now nineteen-year-old Wilson is winning international science competitions with devices designed to prevent terrorists from shipping radioactive material into the country. Along the way, Clynes reveals how our education system shortchanges gifted students, and what we can do to fix it.
About the Author
Bryan Mealer is the coauthor of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind with William Kamkwamba, and author of All Things Must Fight to Live, which details his experience reporting the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003-07 for the Associated Press and Harper's. In 2008, he began working with William Kamkwamba, a 20-year-old inventor in Malawi, who, after dropping out of high school due to a crippling famine, began building windmills from tree branches, tractor and bicycle parts to bring electricity and irrigation to his home and village. Mealer was born in Odessa, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
William Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden. He’s now a student at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and recently completed a biography: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope with coauthor Bryan Mealer.
Table of Contents
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Why the world needs a new map of Africa
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Walking the fine line between genius and crime
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;How bad borders made bad neighbors
4.and#160;Stuff We Donand#8217;t Wantand#8194;52
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;The mistakes that make do-gooding worse
5.and#160;The Family Mapand#8194;67
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;How Africans rely on the original social network
6.and#160;The Technology Mapand#8194;91
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Leapfrogs and lessons from Africaand#8217;s digital moment
7.and#160;The Commercial Mapand#8194;121
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;How to buyand#8212;and selland#8212;a better future in Africa
8.and#160;The Natural Mapand#8194;157
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Why Africa will feed, fuel, and shape the world
9.and#160;The Youth Mapand#8194;191
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Harvesting Africaand#8217;s demographic dividend
and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;Whoand#8217;s in charge, anyway?