George Weisz, a tinkerer-turned-mechanical engineer who designed a popular ventilator being used to treat the coronavirus, has died in the UK at the age of 90, according to a report.
Weisz, who was born in Hungary in 1929, fled Budapest for London with his mother and two sisters in 1939, two weeks before the outbreak of World War II, The Times reported.
His father had paved their way after moving to England the year before amid a rising wave of anti-Semitism. His uncle and cousin both perished during the Holocaust.
The family settled in north London, where his mother inculcated him with her love of art and he lived by his father’s philosophical words: “Where is it written that life should be easy? Life is hard,” the newspaper reported.
Weisz’s path to engineering began when he was a mere 6-year-old, when he disassembled his dad’s pocket watch.
“I managed to put it back together again,” he said. “From that point onwards, everybody said I was going to be an engineer.”
In 1950, he graduated from Birmingham University with a degree in engineering and joined the English Electric Co., an industrial manufacturer based in London.
Weisz was the youngest works manager the company — whose aircraft designs became landmarks of British aeronautics — had employed, The Times reported.
In 1960, he bought a small factory that supplied components to several car manufacturers, then signed a contract with the Ministry of Defence to provide it with parachute release actuators used by RAF pilots.
Six years later, he launched Kay Pneumatics, which specialized in automation using compressed air — technology that was used on train and bus doors across Britain.
In 1972, he invented an artificial ventilator pneumatically powered by its own oxygen tank.
Today, thousands of his Pneupac machines are helping hospitals across the UK to manage the coronavirus pandemic, according to the news outlet.
In 1986, Weisz’s marriage to Edith Teich ended in divorce. He married Judith Szekacz, a fellow Hungarian who is a psychoanalyst, in 1994.
Weisz received a Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1993.
At age 84, he produced a documentary, set in Nazi Germany, about the little-known story of Regina Jonas, who became the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi. She later died at Auschwitz.
“I feel very emotional about the Holocaust. It is something that casts a shadow and should not be forgotten — and that is one of the reasons I wanted to do this film,” Weisz said when the film was released.
In addition to his wife, Weisz is survived by his children, Rachel, the Oscar-winning actress; Minnie, a photographer and visual artist; and a stepson, Mark, a literary translator and writer.