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Tim's Travels: A Beautiful Mind

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

88-year-old Bill Hyzer is one smart guy: he's an engineer, a physicist, and an inventor.

He was born and raised in Janesville but his life's work has been celebrated and recognized all over the world.

Hyzer is a scientific pioneer.

“It's nice to be recognized,”

The Janesville native has his hand in countless inventions and projects in a career spanning more than six decades.

“Well he's a very creative individual,” said his son Jim who is also an engineer.

And it's that creativity that will live on in his life's work. For example: “Along came a question one time where someone said 'how does a fly land on a ceiling?' and they discussed that and they said we don't know...nobody knew!” laughed Bill.

That was back in the 50's. Bill eventually solved the fly conundrum using high speed photography.

“Things were moving so fast, too fast to see and so you could use these high speed photographic techniques to really analyze high-speed movement,”

His know-how and the technology both evolved and Bill began using high speed photography to analyze a lot of different mysteries

“For example, we found that when you shoot a light bulb with a bullet, that the cracks propagate around the light bulb faster than the bullet goes through the light bulb,” said Jim. “Now, that has no practical application but it's really interesting!”

Here's another another key contribution: the ABFO number 2 scale.

“I think it's the simplicity that makes it important,”

Today, it's a standard tool used by forensic scientists and crime scene investigators all over the world.

“It was originally developed for bite marks in the forensic field. You could look at suspects and it would be possible to single out the suspect that did the biting,” said Bill.

Three million were sold worldwide, but bill never made from it cent.

“Well I didn't feel people should make money off of it,” he said “I didn't want to. I felt it was my contribution,”

He's just in it for the thrill.

“It's the excitement of just trying to discover something new, that feeling that hey nobody has ever seen this before,” said Jim.

And he hopes science can inspire the next generation of problem-solvers and thinkers.

“So many people do not have a true appreciation for science and an understanding of it and we need more scientists and engineers, very definitely,”

Bill has received numerous awards over the years as well. He recently received the Haskel M. Pitlock award in recognition for inventing the ABFO No. 2 scale. The award was presented by the American Board of Forensic Odontologists.

And just in case you were wondering just HOW a fly lands on a ceiling, prior to landing, the fly extends its front legs to touch the ceiling, then swings the rest of its body into position.


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