Asad Madni led the development and commercialization of the MEMS gyroscope for aerospace and automotive safety. Commercialized as the GyroChip and first applied in the aerospace and defense industries, the technology has saved lives around the world through its use in aircraft and passenger vehicles.
Born in Mumbai, India, in 1947, Madni grew up surrounded by an extended family who inspired and supported his love of learning. He enjoyed studying English literature, math and science, as well as playing sports, carrom and chess, but his primary passion was for art, especially working in watercolors and charcoal. In an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, Madni said, “As a youngster, everything I did was related to art.” Creativity and artistic expression remain priorities in Madni’s life.
His career path was inspired in part by the proliferation of transistor radios across India and the world. “The potential was incredible, that we all could possess our own handheld radios,” said Madni. “I knew electronics was the next frontier.”
In 1966, Madni began studying electronics at the RCA Institutes in New York City. He then studied electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), earning his bachelor’s degree in 1969 and his master’s degree in 1972. He earned his doctorate from California Coast University in 1987 followed by the Senior Executive Program postgraduate credential from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management in 1990.
Madni joined Systron Donner Corp. as an engineer in 1975 and was chairman, president and CEO when BEI Technologies Inc. acquired the major assets of the company in 1990. From 1992 to 2006, he served as president, COO and chief technology officer of BEI, making high-precision, intelligent sensors and systems for aerospace, defense, industrial and transportation applications.
One particularly significant application of Madni’s work at BEI was an extremely slow-motion, dual-axis, servo control system for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope’s star selector. It is still used today to ensure accuracy and stability for images that further our understanding of the universe.
Madni’s MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) GyroChip continued its development at BEI. Introduced in the 1990s, this inexpensive technology, which can detect and measure the angular motion of an object, is used worldwide to enable guidance, navigation and control in many types of aircraft and passenger vehicles. Over 55 million GyroChip sensors have been used in cars, saving lives by enhancing electronic stability control and preventing rollover accidents.
“As a young engineer, I always hoped that my contributions to engineering [...] would have a beneficial impact on society and humanity,” Madni said. “I'm extremely grateful to have had that dream of mine come true.”
After leading the sale of BEI to Schneider Electric in 2005, Madni established his consulting business in 2006. In 2011, Madni returned to UCLA to guide doctoral and post-doctoral research as a distinguished adjunct professor and distinguished scientist. In mentoring students, he shares his creative approach to solving engineering challenges. “My definition of inventor is also an artist,” said Madni. “For complex problems, I try to look at the most elegant solution, and I always treat my solutions as artistic expressions.”
Madni holds 28 U.S. patents, and his many honors include the 2022 IEEE Medal of Honor, the 2022 Royal Academy of Engineering Prince Philip Medal and the 2023 John Fritz Medal. Looking to the future, Madni said, “Now more than ever, I intend to focus on breakthrough technologies and innovations that can address the greatest challenges facing humanity. I also intend to [...] bring together engineers, scientists, and technology and business leaders to utilize our moral compass, technical prowess and human understanding to convert these challenges into opportunities for a safer and a more just society.”