Dr. Temple Grandin is always of a mind to understand other minds. Human and otherwise.
She did not talk until she was almost 4 years old, but now she is an accomplished public speaker and one of the world’s most well-known people with autism. She was not exposed to the beef cattle industry until age 15, but her understanding of animal behavior led to greatly improved conditions for the animals.
While vaccinating cattle in Arizona as a teen, she noticed that some of the livestock could be distracted by something so mundane as a car parked next to a fence.
“And it was obvious to me to look at what the cattle were seeing. And at the time I thought everybody’s a visual thinker,” Dr. Grandin said in one of the USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation interviews. In a 2010 TED Talk, she likened her mind to Google Images: “It’s literally movies in my head.”
“I didn’t realize that my thinking was different,” she told the USPTO, “and I couldn’t understand why other people weren’t seeing this. And then I learned later on in life that some people are visual thinkers, thinking photo-realistic pictures like me, or an object visualizer. Then you have the more mathematical type of person who is a pattern visualizer.”
When designing cattle-handling facilities, she noticed: “The visual thinkers invent all of the clever mechanical equipment, and the more mathematically inclined engineers will do things like boilers, refrigeration, stresses on pre-stressed concrete, [the] kind of stuff the visual thinkers don’t understand … you need both kinds of minds.”
Dr. Grandin, a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University who holds U.S. Patent No. 5,906,540 for her animal stunning system, is also a best-selling author whose contributions to autism awareness and the livestock industry were captured in an HBO Emmy Award-winning movie about her life. The invention she is most proud of is a center track restrainer system for livestock.
On March 25 from 2 to 3:30 p.m., she will be a keynote presenter in a USPTO program with the U.S. Department of Education that addresses making STEM education more accessible to all. Details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/differing-abilities-in-stem-registration-141185721293
The 2016 American Academy of Arts and Sciences inductee is also an advocate for people with autism, as the back of her USPTO inventor card notes.
“In special education, there’s too much emphasis placed on the deficit and not enough on the strength,” Dr. Grandin said. “The world needs all types of minds.”