At 74, Wood has been an inventor-in-residence at Intellectual Ventures, a technology research and patent firm, for about a decade. He’s paid to think and orchestrate international teams to develop products such as anticoncussion helmets, drug-delivery systems, superefficient nuclear reactors—anything, really, that might address some pressing need. In the 1980s he led the development of the space lasers that were meant to shield the U.S. from Soviet missiles as part of the “Star Wars” program. He’s an astrophysicist, a self-trained paleontologist and computer scientist, and, as of a few months ago, the most prolific inventor in U.S. history.
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