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George Wheelwright III; Co-Founded Polaroid Corp.

March 09, 2001|From Associated Press

TIBURON, Calif. — George Wheelwright III, a co-founder of the company that became Polaroid Corp., died Feb. 27 at a nursing home here. He was 97.

Wheelwright joined with Edwin Land to develop a lens that could polarize light--technology that was the basis for glare-free sunglasses and instant photography.

Born in Ware, Mass., Wheelwright and his brother Joseph, who became a noted Jungian psychiatrist, started a boys camp in Santa Barbara. Despite its success, George Wheelwright decided to return to his alma mater, Harvard, to pursue advanced degrees in physics and astronomy. He met Land while teaching physics at Harvard in 1932. The two struck a fast friendship and formed Land Wheelwright Laboratories later that year to make and market polarizers.

After successfully marketing the polarizers, the two turned Land Wheelwright into the Polaroid Corp. in 1937, developing it into a commercial outlet for their product. Land served as president, Wheelwright as vice president.

Land, who died in 1991, was the company's technological genius; Wheelwright was its primary salesman, spending much of his time giving lectures and demonstrations of the company's products.

In 1942, Wheelwright left Polaroid to work for the Bureau of Special Devices in Washington to help develop uses for polarized lenses for World War II pilots.

Later during the war years, Wheelwright was trained as a Naval Air Transport pilot and flew captured German scientists to the United States.

After the war, Wheelwright took up ranching and settled in California.

Married three times, Wheelwright is survived by two sons from his first marriage, five stepchildren, 13 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

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