BioLite Inspiration: Otis Boykin
Across New York and Nairobi, every conference room at BioLite is named after a person whose contributions to science or environment directly influences and inspires BioLite today.
Exactly one year ago right before COVID hit, BioLite was in the middle of designing and producing plaques for each conference area so teammates and visitors alike could get to know the people behind the names of our rooms. Those plaques are on hold, but those stories can be shared today.
In the space between our Burn Lab and Kitchen, you’ll find the Boykin Conference Room. It’s an open-area meeting space where (pre-COVID) we host our global team meetings, major phase exits for projects, and team get togethers. It’s a high-use space, where the team regularly flows through – an apt image for Boykin’s legacy.
Special thanks to our colleague Melisa for her research and writing.
Otis F. Boykin was an inventor whose work on improved electrical resistors transformed the personal electronics landscape, making these devices significantly more affordable and reliable thanks to his internal component innovation. That small detail of a resistor has a direct impact on the ubiquity of electronics that surround us today.
Boykin was born on August 29, 1920 in Dallas, Texas. His mother died of heart failure when he was only an infant – many biographers suggest this tragedy later influenced his work on medical devices, with one of his most famous innovations including an improved control system for the modern pacemaker. After graduating from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1941, he worked as a laboratory assistant with the Majestic Radio and TV Corporation in Chicago, Illinois. He undertook various tasks but excelled at testing automatic aircraft controls, ultimately becoming a supervisor. Three years later, he left Majestic and took a position as a research engineer with the P.J. Nilsen Research Laboratories but soon thereafter decided to try to develop a business of his own and founded Boykin-Fruth, Inc.
Boykin earned his first patent in 1959 for a wire precision resistor, an electronic component that slows the flow of an electrical current. This was a critical item in electronics development as it prevented too much electricity from passing through a device, an important requirement for both efficiency and safety. This was followed by his 1961 patent for an electrical resistor that was both inexpensive and easy to produce. This new resistor was in high demand within consumer electronics manufacturers, including behemoth IBM. Boykin’s design made electronic devices more affordable and accessible and contributed to the rapid advancement of computers.
Over the course of his life, Boykin patented over 25 electronic devices and components, including a chemical air filter and a burglar-proof cash register. His most famous invention, the control system for the pacemaker, utilized his reliable resistor design.
Resistors today have advanced tremendously in terms of precision, reliability, affordability, and size. BioLite uses them in all of our designs, employing various combinations on our circuit boards to make measurements of voltage, current and temperature, to help read the state of our buttons and switches reliably, and more. Thanks to inventors and innovators like Boykin, BioLite is able to make highly advanced products accessible to customers around the globe.