For his commitment to changing the way the world makes electricity, and for “half a century of innovations in environmental quality, health and safety technologies,“ George N. Hatsopoulos, now 91, was honored at the 2009 Boston History & Innovation Awards.
The Greek-born scientist and his brother John founded Thermo Electron in 1956 (with a $50,000 loan from a Greek shipowner). Thermo Electron grew into an international company recognized as a global leader in environmental monitoring and analysis instruments, and a major producer of paper-recycling equipment, biomedical products, alternative-energy systems and other products and services related to environmental quality, health and safety. In 1981, it was ranked 739th among Fortune’s 1,000 largest industrial firms. By the time it merged with Fisher Scientific in November 2006, Thermo Electron was seeing annual revenues of over $2 billion, and employed 11,000 people in 30 countries. Hatsopoulos’ work led to rapid advances in thermionic power conversion. He retired in 1999.
In 2000, Hatsopoulos, his brother John, and other private investors purchased Tecogen, formerly the research and development division of Thermo Electron. As an independent company, it builds power systems that can generate electricity and run heating or cooling units for big buildings. In May 2014, Tecogen offered 2 million shares of its stock at $4.75 per share on NASDAQ. At press time, the company was valued at $83.6 million with a stock price of $5.29.
His training began in Greece at the National Polytechnic Institute in Athens. He received his bachelor’s (1949), master’s (1950) and doctorate (1956) degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all in mechanical engineering. Hatsopoulos has testified at numerous congressional hearings on national energy policy and capital formation, and has served on many national committees on energy conservation, environmental protection and international exchange. He is also noted for his and Joseph Keenan’s famous textbook, “Principles of General Thermodynamics.”
In 1996, Hatsopoulos won the John Fritz Medal, the highest American award in the engineering profession. In 2007, he was one of the nine prominent Greek-Americans who were selected by President Carolos Papoulias to be honored with the Hellenic Republic’s prestigious Commander of the Order of Honor award. Until his retirement in April 2012, Hatsopoulos was the chairman of American DG Energy Inc., the leading on-site utility he formed with his brother in 2001 offering electricity, heat, hot water and cooling to commercial, institutional and industrial customers. He remains a technical advisor to American DG, where his brother John serves as CEO. The company, whose stocks were valued recently at $23 million, specializes in green energy and carbon reducing solutions.
The professorship at MIT in his name perpetuates his life’s work, as holders of that seat develop new breakthroughs in long-distance Wi-Fi.
In December, 2017, the current professorship seat holder, Ian Hunter, developed a needle-free system of injection scheduled to be introduced to the market shortly.