Ali Bouzid, a 70-year-old engineer and member of the Libyan Society for Development and Invention  is an unsung hero of the Libyan science world. After earning a diploma from the Institute of Electricity in 1960, he spent much of his career dodging Gadaffi.

Ali Bouzid, a 70-year-old engineer and member of the Libyan Society for Development and Invention  is an unsung hero of the Libyan science world. After earning a diploma from the Institute of Electricity in 1960, he spent much of his career dodging Gadaffi.

During the era of the Libyan monarchy (1951 – 1969) Bouzid was awarded a scholarship to West Germany to earn a diploma in electronics maintenance. He continued his educational studies in several other countries and obtained a certificate from Great Britain in electronics maintenance, attended several courses in Japan and studied at different electronics institutes in the Middle East.

His eighteen-year-old son Fadi also inherited his father’s passion for science and has already won prestigious scientific youth contests.

Ali Bouzid, when and how did your scientific career begin?

My scientific experiments began in 1954 when I was ten years old. I was fond of watching supernatural and science fiction movies, which prompted me to start my small, randomized experiments. My first successful experiment was in 1955 when I turned my parent’s old radio into a wireless set with a transmission that reached 250 km.

I used to perform my experiments when my father was outside of the house and I turned my bedroom into a laboratory where I collected devices, spare parts, glass flasks and wireless sets left by the Italian army. I spent my pocket money on those collectables.

In 1957, I had an accident caused by a critical chemical experiment where I used lethal concentrated acids including lime and other materials. The material exploded in my face and I temporarily lost my sight. My friend took me on his motorcycle to the hospital where I received treatment and my sight was gradually restored.

Following that incident, my father broke all my flasks and destroyed all contents of my small laboratory. Eventually, I abandoned the chemical experiments and I attended the School of Industry and Commerce. Over the years, I obtained a diploma in electricity and collected a lot of information in the field of electronics focusing on radios and communications.

Those were childhood days. How did you mature into your career?

After graduation, I worked at the oil refinery laboratory in Marsa Brega, west of Benghazi, in the power distribution department, but I did not abandon my hobbies and experiments. I created several communication devices and modernized old ones, such as turning radios into telecommunication devices with glass valves.

During the monarchy, I won a scholarship to the former West Germany, which was a valuable opportunity to obtain the proper training. I acquired a diploma in practical and theoretical electronics. However, after I returned home, I did not find any kind of encouragement, so I opened a maintenance workshop for electronic devices with a laboratory for experiments where I worked for several years.

Why did you then leave Libya?

In 1970, I invented a device using the same technology of the current mobile phone with a device receiving and transmitting via satellite and radio. I felt proud to be the owner of the first invention in this area and expected to have great attention by the state. Haqeea newspaper then published articles about my work, but once newspapers reported on my invention, a year after Gaddafi’s coup, security services began to pursue me, and my friends advised me to leave Libya.

Indeed, they tracked me, but I managed to escape by using a forged passport to Great Britain where I worked as a low-wage assistant maintenance engineer in an electronic devices factory. After a period of time, I was acquainted with an electronics maintenance workshop owner in Bahrain who visited the factory and was impressed with my work. He invited me to work for him and booked my ticket.

Where else did you go?

I traveled to Bahrain and worked there for a while, but my dream has urged me to leave and find a better place. I went to Kuwait and then Iraq where I opened up an electronics workshop in Baghdad and I used to drive from Baghdad to Syria to buy spare parts.

However, I could not endure the severe environment and weather of Baghdad so I decided to return to Great Britain. I flew with British Airlines and on the way to London, the plane was forced to land in Beirut’s airport to refuel, but the security situation and civil war delayed our return.

While leafing through a Lebanese daily newspaper, I found an advertisement for a job as electronics teacher. I made some calls and interviews and was accepted. Thus, I stayed in Lebanon for ten years during which time I worked as a teacher in the laboratories of several universities. I spent the longest time in the Arab University where I was sent for attending several short courses in Japan through Lebanese companies to which I provided electronic services.

Did your long journey end at this point?

It was my last stop before returning to Libya. During my stay in Lebanon, I got married and had children, but after the Israeli invasion of Beirut in 1982, I decided to return to my homeland. I returned believing that the regime might have forgotten my case. About a month after my family and I arrived, my house was attacked at night. I was arrested and taken to April 7 prison, where they beat me and accused me of insulting the “High Commander”. After a while, they decided to release me and the internal security gave me a document stating that my arrest was just a mistaken identity.

How did you then resume your life?

I moved between jobs until I opened an electronic devices maintenance workshop in 2005. I applied to the Vocational Training Centre as a teacher and the admissions committee interviewed and accepted my admission, but 15 days later, they said my age was not suitable to work at the center.

I was very frustrated, but a friend of mine asked me to repair a device at the Preeminents Institute and was offered a job as a teacher at a laboratory of physics and practical electronics. I accepted the offer and worked at the institute for three years. After that, I began training my son, Fadi, who was then 14 years old.

What have been Fadi’s most important scientific inventions?


Fadi Bouzid takes after his father

Fadi has had a lab at home since he was little. He invented a device that killed very small cockroaches in homes and restaurants without the use of toxic substances. He also invented a device for gas pipelines in high levels and across stairs that is manually operated without fatigue and could be used in kitchens.

He participated in a nationwide competition in Ghadames, southern Libya in 2009, where he won the first prize for inventing a communication device that measures astronomic activities. Fadi’s invention surprised everyone at the competition.

Recently, he helped me with the invention of a self-renewable energy source, which produces electricity and runs on a water scalable battery that can lighten lamps continuously for a month.

Did you not try to publish your inventions in the media?

About five years ago, I presented my experiment to a number of journalists in Benghazi, but unfortunately, I was met with indifference.