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George Perryman Tim Kehoe

Air Men

According to his obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Tim Kehoe “blew more than 10,000 bubbles before he perfected Zubbles, the nearly opaque orbs with the disappearing color.”

It took him over a decade to achieve this feat – a feat especially notable for an amateur inventor with no background in chemistry. Popular Mechanics awarded him 2005’s Grand Prize for General Innovation.

As that magazine’s former editor said:

What I loved most about the bubble story wasn’t just that he worked on it for 11 years, but that he wasn’t just an obsessive genius or crank … In that 11 years, he raised kids, bought a house, got real jobs, learned new skills. So even when it seemed like he had abandoned his dream, he hadn’t — it was just on hiatus while he did the practical work of living. That was what always inspired me, and I think drove such interest in that story when we published it, because it was something everybody could relate to. Being a little Tim Kehoe seemed possible for anyone.

 

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George Perryman was also an amateur. Excerpts from his obituary by Kay Powell in the Atlanta Journal Constitution describe his achievements:

As a country boy growing up in Kentucky, George Perryman made his own toys. As an adult, while he designed airplanes for Lockheed Martin Corp., he made it possible for thousands of people to build his toys – model airplanes.

Mr. Perryman, with a 9th-grade mechanical drawing class as his only engineering training, was hired by Lockheed in 1951. The man who had studied at Emory University to become a geologist instead became a wind tunnel expert and helped design highly classified aircraft.

Four of Mr. Perryman’s model kits are found in hobby shops around the word, including the Mini-Maxer, which has sold 60,000 and is the biggest selling kit of all time.

“He had a special wing tip on his models, and NASA told him seven or eight years ago his design was more efficient than the triplets being used on airplanes.”

His balsa wood and paper model airplanes would fly for miles. Mr. Perryman would do anything to recover a model.  He once climbed a 12-foot fence topped with barbed wire to follow one of his planes, dashed past a man with a shotgun, then cleared a second fence before tracking down his model. “I found out later I had been through the middle of a convict work camp,” he said.