Times Colonist

Specialist in optics held 122 patents


Alvin M. Marks, a prolific inventor who held patents on polarized film for sunglasses, a 3-D moviemakin­g process, a generator the size of a grapefruit that could produce enough electricit­y for a house, a windmill with no moving parts and a trilliondo­llar “space train,” died May 25 in Gardner, Mass. He was 97 and lived in Athol, Mass.

The cause was liver and pancreatic cancer, said Molly Bennett Aitken, his former wife.

A man capable of both small-bore pragmatism and large-scale imaginatio­n, Marks held 122 patents. An expert in optics, he developed several variants of polarized film that were used in sunglasses and to reduce glare on television screens; a headlight system to aid night driving; and window panels that change gradually from transparen­t to opaque and back again.

In 1951, he was granted a patent for a “three-dimensiona­l intercommu­nicating system” that could be used to make TV shows and movies. He was president for many years of the Marks Polarized Corp., based in the Whitestone section of Queens, where, along with his brother, Mortimer, who died in 2006, he invented many improvemen­ts on his original device, even though three-dimensiona­l moviemakin­g never became the widespread technique he hoped it would.

For much of the latter half of his career, Marks focused on developing alternativ­e and low-cost energy sources. An early experiment­er with solar energy, he served as an adviser to President John F. Kennedy and in 1967 was a consultant to the U.S. Senate on new technologi­es.

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