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Prolific inventor

Alvin M. Marks, an inventor who held patents on polarized film for sunglasses, a 3-D moviemaking process, a generator the size of a grapefruit that could produce enough electricity for a house, a windmill with no moving parts and a trillion-dollar "space train," died of cancer May 25 in Gardner, Mass., said Molly Bennett Aitken, his former wife.

A man capable of both small-bore pragmatism and large-scale imagination, Mr. Marks held 122 patents. An expert in optics, he developed several variants of polarized film that were used in sunglasses and to reduce glare on television screens; a headlight system to aid night driving; and window panels that change gradually from transparent to opaque and back again.

In 1951, he was granted a patent for a "three-dimensional intercommunicating system" that could be used to make TV shows and movies.

He was president for many years of the Marks Polarized Corp., based in the Whitestone section of Queens, N.Y., where, along with his brother, Mortimer, who died in 2006, he invented many improvements on his original device, even though three-dimensional moviemaking never became the widespread technique he hoped it would.

For much of the latter half of his career, Mr. Marks focused on developing alternative and low-cost energy sources. An early experimenter with solar energy, he served as an adviser to President John F. Kennedy and in 1967 was a consultant to the Senate on new technologies.

His inventions in the energy field include several aerosol electric power generators for home use as well as larger-scale generators, including the "windmill" with no moving parts, which proposed the placement in remote locations of enormous screens that would emit charged water particles into the wind to create power.

In recent years, he had been developing an array of minute antennas capable of collecting sunlight and transforming it into electricity, as well as a battery for storing it.

In 1989, Mr. Marks won a patent, with Peter G. Diamandis, for perhaps his most audacious invention: a plan to circumvent conventional space travel with a 6.6-million-pound, 180-foot train that would be propelled into outer space in an electromagnetic tunnel. It would cost trillions of dollars and take a decade to build, he said, but once complete, it would cut the cost of space exploration drastically.

"It's a feasible idea and should be given consideration," he told The New York Times at the time.


Avid collector

of political paraphernalia

Jordan M. Wright, who at 10 was thrilled to learn that politicians hand out self-promotional baubles, then collected more than a million bumper stickers and other campaign artifacts from the time of George Washington to that of George W. Bush, died of an embolism May 11 at his home in Atlantic Beach, N.Y., his mother, Faith-Dorian Wright, said.

Mr. Wright, a lawyer, businessman and publisher, died just as his political treasure chest was gaining wider notice. This year, he published a book with pictures and commentary on his vast collection, and this month, the Museum of the City of New York will exhibit some of it. In recent months, interviews with Mr. Wright appeared in newspapers around the country as he and a tiny fraction of his collection toured.

For years, only his friends perused what the museum calls "the nation's largest and most comprehensive collection of campaign artifacts."

Few could forget what the museum calls his "one of a kind" porcelain and cloth doll depicting, when held upright, President William McKinley. Turned upside down, a black baby can be seen. The doll was meant to be a reminder of the rumor that McKinley had fathered a black child.

Further proof that old-time politics were at least as dirty as today's version - and evidently stranger - was a brochure produced by President Warren G. Harding's father-in-law. His disenchantment with his daughter's groom can be gleaned from the title: "The Serious Lesson in President Harding's Case of Gonorrhea."

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