In a 2011 YouTube interview (below), Lyman Blackwell described his pre-teen inventiveness and curiosity about technologies like radio transmitters and electromagnets. In high school he made money repairing radios, jukeboxes and pinball machines.
After graduating from Canon City, Colorado High School in 1942, Lyman Blackwell attended the US Army Air Forces Technical School in Amarillo, Texas. Soon thereafter he shipped out to join the Allied war effort where he flew 33 bombing missions in the European theatre. After the war he returned to study at the University of Colorado under the GI Bill, earning his BS degree in Electrical Engineering in 1949. He was born with engineering creativity in his DNA and was basically a self-employed inventor his entire life (at age 91 he's still "in the lab" every day)
Blackwell’s mainstream career focused mainly on troubleshooting and enhancement of electro-mechanical systems in the food processing, manufacturing and health care industries. Along the way he worked in the hospital environment, assisting with EKG, EEG and radiation detection devices, pacemakers, cobalt therapy and “iron lung machines”.
In the 1960’s he operated his own company manufacturing Gieger counters which were built around some of his own inventions having to do with the inverted triode. Consulting for the B.K. Sweeney Company, he used similar technology for detecting static electricity in clouds, useful in assessing the risk of lightning strikes in connection with rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. He also reports accidentally stumbling on the idea that the same technology could be used to detect smoke particles. Indeed, he led development of the self-powered home smoke alarm technology that is commonly used today to protect dwellings of all kinds.