The man who invented the small, long-lasting alkaline batteries that power Walkmans, Gameboys and countless other portable devices has died. Lewis Urry was 77.
Mr. Urry, who was born in Pontypool, Ont., northeast of Oshawa, died Tuesday at Southwest General Health Center in the Cleveland suburb of Middleburg Heights after a short illness.
“He took special pride around Christmas, when there was a rush for batteries,” said Steven Urry, his son. “He didn't brag on himself. It wasn't until we got older that we realized what he had done.”
Mr. Urry retired in May from Energizer, the successor to Union Carbide's National Carbon Co., where he developed the first practical long-life battery in the 1950s.
An estimated 80 per cent of the dry cell batteries in the world today are based on the work of Mr. Urry, who held 51 patents.
“It saddens us greatly to learn of Lew's passing,” said Dan Carpenter, Energizer's vice-president and technology chief. “Here at Energizer, we refer to Lew as the ‘father of alkaline.'”
National Carbon, which made Eveready batteries, transferred Mr. Urry in 1955 to its Cleveland laboratory to work on ways to improve carbon zinc batteries that did not last very long.He came up with a practical, long-lasting alkaline battery using powdered zinc as the electrolyte.
Mr. Urry served in the Canadian army and later earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the University of Toronto in 1950. He went to work for Eveready, then a division of Union Carbide, in Toronto after graduating.