William Kamkwamba (born August 5, 1987) is a Malawian inventor and author. He gained fame in his country in 2001 when he built a wind turbine to power multiple electrical appliances in his family’s house in Wimbe, 32 km (20 mi) east of Kasungu, using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other wind turbines, the tallest standing at 12 meters (39 ft), and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi.
When William Kamkwamba was 14, Malawi suffered a severe famine. His family could no longer pay his school fees, and he was forced to drop out of high school. While staying home, William remained curious and inventive and worked with the village librarian to stay engaged with his studies, especially science. Working from just one photo in a U.S. junior high school textbook book called “Using Energy,” he reasoned out how to build an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap, despite having no instructions.
William’s inspiring story is told in his New York Times bestselling memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, co-authored with Bryan Mealer, and in the Netflix film adaptation, directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, which was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film festival. Since its debut, William’s book has been published in two additional editions, a young readers version, and a children’s book. The autobiography has sold more than 1 million copies and been translated in nearly twenty languages worldwide. William has been featured on The Wall Street Journal, Nyasa Times, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer.
After graduating from Dartmouth College in Environmental Studies, William began work as a Global Fellow for the design firm IDEO.org. William is an entrepreneur, TED Fellow, and has worked with the WiderNet Project to develop appropriate technologies curriculums focused on bridging the gap between “knowing” and “doing” for young people in Malawi and across the world. William splits his time between the U.S. and Malawi and is currently working full-time with the Moving Windmills Project to bring the Moving Windmills Innovation Center to life in Kasungu, Malawi.