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Lear, William Powell (26 June 1902–15 May 1978), electrical engineer and aeronautical entrepreneur, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, the son of Reuben Lear, a carpenter and teamster, and Gertrude Powell. His parents separated when Lear was six, and his mother married a plasterer in Chicago. The family’s meager income represented a lifelong goad to Lear to become financially secure. After finishing the eighth grade, he left school and found work as a mechanic. At age sixteen Lear decided to leave home and enter military service. Lying about his age, he signed up in 1918 with the navy and was posted to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, where he was trained in radio technology. After the armistice, he found employment with a succession of electrical and radio businesses and developed several technical improvements while gaining valuable experience in a rapidly developing industry. During the early 1920s he built and patented the first practical radio for autos but lacked financial support to go into production and sold the design to Motorola in 1924....

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Sperry, Elmer Ambrose (12 October 1860–16 June 1930), engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur, was born in Cortland, New York, the son of Stephen Sperry, a farmer and carpenter, and Mary Burst, who died giving birth to him. Elmer was precocious mechanically and eagerly studied math and science at Cortland Normal School. His growing fascination for electrical technology and a visit to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 helped ignite a lifelong drive to invent that would emphasize feedback control systems....