Boston Herald American - Monday, May 15, 1978
William Lear, invented Lear Jet, 8-track tapes
RENO, Nev. (UPI) - Industrialist William P. Lear, whose maverick genius created the car radio, the eight-track tape player, the Lear Jet and more than 150 other patented inventions, died in Reno yesterday after a long bout with leukemia. He was 75.
Lear's creativity was matched only by his capacity for work -- usually 12 hours daily on several projects at the same time.
He maintained that schedule until his final hospitalization a few days ago. Lear Avia vice president J. S. Lewis said yesterday that Lear's last instructions to him concerned a new turbo-prop business jet called LearFan.
"He said `Finish it.' You bet we'll “finish it," Lewis said.
Lear, born June 26, 1902, in Hannibal, Mo., started his career in 1926 with the development of the automobile radio. That invention put Motorola Corp., in which Lear once held a one-third interest, into business.
By 1930, he had branched out on his own. He formed Lear Developments, later Lear, Inc., to produce aerospace and electronic equipment. In 1962, the company employed more than 5,000 workers in California, Ohio and West Germany.
His invention of aircraft radio, navigation and autopilot systems won international acclaim, including the Frank M. Hawks Memorial award in 1940 for the Learmatic Navigator. President Harry Truman awarded him the Collier Trophy in 1950 for design of the F-5 autopilot system, the first for jet aircraft.
He received the Great Silver Medal from the city of Paris in 1960 for the development of an automatic pilot for the Caravelle jetliner.
One of Lear's best known products, the Lear Jet, was introduced in 1963. It was the first business jet and the first production jet financed by a single individual. More than 800 have been sold.
In the 1960s, Lear's eight-track tape player went on the market, popularizing stereo sound in automobiles.
Although his fame was world wide and his personal fortune estimated at greater than $30 million,
Lear looked for new ventures. In 1968 after selling Lear Jet Industries, he concentrated on low-pollution power systems.
He developed a steam-powered bus that was successfully tested on the hills of San Francisco. Still under development is a car powered by the energy stored in a pair of spinning flywheels.
Lear Motors engineers predict the car will be able to travel up to 100 miles with top speed of 80 mph before the flywheels must be re-energized from an electrical outlet.
Recently Lear focused on development of the LearFan business jet.
The craft will be constructed largely out of plastic composites half the weight of aluminum but with the strength: of. titanium. The-result will be a craft less than half the weight of the Lear Jet, nearly as fast and much more economical.
Lear completed the design earlier this year and Lewis said production will go forward as his boss wished.
Lear's most recent project was announced just a week ago, a planned community at Stead, Nev., to eventually include 7,760 new homes as well as a variety of industrial and business operations.
He -is survived by his wife, Moya Marie, six children and seven grand children.
Funeral arrangements were pending.