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Immigrants Of The Week: Fred Kavli, John Oliver, Jan Stenerud, Robert Plant, And Marco Beltrami

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are some entries from Greg Siskind's blog.


Kavli Norwegian-born Fred Kavli is called by some the next Alfred Nobel. He should inspire those who have tried to get a US visa to pursue their dreams and have not yet succeeded. In 1955, Kavli was denied a US visa for lack of having a job lined up for him after he graduated from university in his native Norway. Instead, he moved to Montreal. He got a visa to come to the US the next year and then landed a job with the company that build the Atlas missile. He eventually became Chief Scientist at that company.

Some years later, Kavli got the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start his own company. He ran a simple ad in the Los Angeles Times that read "Engineer seeking financial backing to start own business". And it worked well enough to allow him to start Kavlico. The company went on to become the largest producer of sensors for aeronautics, automotive and industrial firms and the sensors have even been used on the Space Shuttle.

In 2000, Kavli sold his company for $345 million to C-Mac Industries Inc. and the company was later transferred again to French-owned Schneider Electric. Kavli's fortune was built not just by the sale of his company, but by a number of shrewd real estate investments in California.

He's putting his money to good use. He has established the Kavli Prizes which will award $100,000 to individuals for innovations in astrophysics, nanotechnology, and neuroscience. The first prizes will be awarded this year.

Mr. Kavli's foundation also funds a number of institutes. 15 Kavli Institutes operate on major university campuses around the world and promote research in the three fields for which the Kavli Prize will be awarded.

Aside from his contributions to the advancement of science, Mr. Kavli is a philanthropist in his home community of Southern California. One of his causes is supporting the arts and his home town has honored him by naming The Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in his honor.