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Arab Americans in History

In celebration of National Arab American Heritage Month, we are recognizing the rich history of Arab Americans. This article highlights the contributions of Arab professionals in Engineering, Design, and Business.

Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah (1894 — 1935)

Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah

Lebanese engineer, mathematician, and inventor Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah is best known for inventing more than 70 U.S. and International patents for several industries including space, automotive, arc-welding, and telecommunications.

Early Life

Born and raised in Nabatieh, Lebanon, Al-Sabbah immigrated to the U.S. to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, MA, in 1921. In 1922, he moved to Chicago, Illinois to attend the University of Illinois and earned a master’s in engineering one year later.

More Than a Decade of Patents

From 1923 to 1935—while working as an electrical engineer for the engineering department at General Electric (GE)— Al-Sabbah invented and applied for 52 patents. Due to his contract with GE, Al-Sabbah was awarded a dollar for each patent during his 12-year professional career. Of the many patents he received while working at GE, five patents involving television transmission and cathode ray tubes led to the later development of the liquid crystal display, more commonly known as LCD.

During a seven-year period from 1928 to 1935, Al-Sabbah introduced 27 patents to the space industry. His invention of the solar cell—perhaps Al-Sabbah’s greatest contribution to the space industries—led to the use of an eco-friendly and safe source of energy. He is also responsible for developing patents for vapor electric arc and a rectifying system which became the cornerstone of arc-welding techniques used today by heavy industrial developers, such as ship builders.

End of Life

In 1935, Al-Sabbah was involved in a fatal car accident in Elizabeth Town, NY. His patents have become the basis for many inventions since his death, proving crucial in many industries.

To learn more about Al-Sabbah’s patents and research, check out the links below.

Tony Fadell at an Apple event

Tony Fadell

Best known as the “father of the iPod,” Tony Fadell made significant waves in the tech industry when he was hired as a contractor for Apple, Inc.’s after catching the attention of co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs in 2001. Fadell’s ideas for a pocket-sized portable mp3 player and online music store led to the creation of the iPod—he is credited for the device’s original concept and design. Seeing the potential of the device, Apple hired Fadell as a full-time employee and appointed him to lead its iPod & Special Project Group in April 2001.

Early life

Born and raised in Grosse Point, Michigan, Fadell was born to a Lebanese-American father and a Polish-American mother. He attended the University of Michigan and received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering in 1991. Before joining Apple, he worked for General Magic and Phillips Electronics. Before working at Apple Fadell founded the mobile computing group at Phillips Electronics which included the development of the Phillips Velo and Nino PDAs.

Continued Success at Apple

After the successful launch of the iPod, Apple promoted Fadell to senior vice president of the iPod Division in 2006. Coinciding with his promotion, Fadell was assigned to work on Apple’s iPhone—overseeing three generations of hardware, software, and design aspects of the smartphone. He departed Apple in 2008.

Later Career

In 2010, Fadell and former Apple Engineer Matt Rogers co-founded Nest Labs. The company specialized in smart home devices including smart thermostats, smoke detectors, doorbells, cameras, and locks. In 2014, Nest Labs was acquired by Google for $3.2 million dollars and was renamed Google Nest. Fadell resigned in 2016.

While developing Nest Labs, Fadell founded Future Shape, a global advisory and investment firm that supports engineers and scientists. He currently serves as the founder, principal, and CEO of the firm. Fadell continues to shape how people use technology to interact with each other and the world.

To learn more about Tony Fadell's impacts, check out the links below:


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