This is an excert from a feature article in The Listener this week.
It is written by Diana Wichtel who interviewed me at work recently. You can read the whole article here: http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3667/features/15989/the_rebel_who_found_his_cause.html
From unpromising beginnings, Ray Avery chose the path of scientific doer-of-good rather than axe murderer.
The war against cliché suffers a setback when you meet Ray Avery. Phrases like “stranger than fiction” and “you couldn’t make it up” spring irresistibly to mind, along with the occasional “what the …?”
Even the taxi driver is bemused. “Is this an office?” he wonders, as he idles outside a house that, while hardly grand, does stand out in the neighbourhood east of Dominion Rd, Mt Eden. There’s an intercom at the gate, a red sports car in the drive and a sign announcing Avery’s development agency, Medicine Mondiale, on the stone fence.
It’s a home and an office, I tell the driver. Of a person who invents things that save lives in developing countries. A scientist. “I didn’t know there are scientists in New Zealand,” says the driver.
Indeed. Especially ones with a garage that resembles a set from Breaking Bad, that television series about a science teacher with cancer who cooks methamphetamine to provide for his family. A while back, the garage door was open and there were men in space suits wandering around (doing something sterile), causing a serious rubbernecking hazard. “It looks like the biggest P lab in the world,” says Avery contentedly, surveying his bizarre domain.
He is very famous – winner of New Zealander of the Year and the Blake Medal for Leadership this year alone – for someone many haven’t heard of. More will now, thanks to his book, Rebel with a Cause. It’s the surprisingly funny story of a child born in postwar Britain who was abused and abandoned to foster homes and orphanages. The sort of book with a chapter that begins: “I lived under a railway bridge for the next eight months.” He was a young teenager at the time.
Avery’s father and mother were spectacularly feckless. His mother once considered selling him. When he was nine she beat him so badly he was made a ward of the court. He never saw her again. “They didn’t want me,” he writes, “and I don’t have a single good memory of either of them.”
Add such further obstacles as short sightedness, dyslexia and glue ear, and Charles Dickens would have rejected him as a character on the grounds of implausibility.
Avery might have grown up to be an axe murderer. Instead, he learnt to play a bad system, met eye doctor Fred Hollows and went on to design intraocular lens factories in Nepal and Eritrea, helping to restore sight to millions of cataract sufferers. He has invented a life-savingly precise and cheap intravenous drip clamp, a super protein food supplement and a low-cost incubator that can withstand developing world conditions. Possibly his greatest invention to date is himself.
Read on…..this is a great article – http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3667/features/15989/the_rebel_who_found_his_cause.html