I had a chance to meet Jim Sorenson on two occasions and both of those events left a lasting impression on me. I remember him describing his childhood and his early days in business. He grew up in the middle of the depression in a story reminiscent of the "Grapes of Wrath." As a young child, Mr. Sorenson moved with his parents to Yuba City, California as his father looked for work. Unable to find housing, the elder Sorenson rented a former chicken coop and converted it to a home for his family.
Jim Sorenson went to public school at the age of six. After one day in the classroom, the teacher sent a note home with the child advising the parents to keep the boy at home because he was "unteachable." Jim Sorenson never attended public school again. Many years later, after becoming a multi-billionaire, Sorenson was diagnosed as dyslexic.
After brief military service in World War II, Sorenson entered a local junior college. He lasted less than one semester, again unable to learn. He soon dropped out. Mr. Sorenson was then hired by Upjohn to sell pharmaceuticals to physicians in Salt Lake City. Always alert to opportunity, he finished sales calls early and purchased underpriced land around Salt Lake City as a sideline. Soon his real estate endeavors were more lucrative than Upjohn’s sales position, which Upjohn began to notice. After 8 1/2 years on the job, the company fired him.
James Sorenson then invented many pioneering medical innovations that have became commonplace in operating rooms and intensive care units throughout the world, and have spawned a host of products that have improved or helped save the lives of millions of individuals. He is known foremost for developing the computerized heart monitor, which was the first device able to accurately monitor conditions inside a living human heart. He also invented pioneering disposable surgical masks, non-invasive intravenous catheters, and blood-recycling and -infusion systems. The inventions of this man have saved thousands of lives.
Along the way, James Sorenson became the wealthiest man in Utah with a personal fortune believed to be about $4.5 billion. He has been quoted as saying, “Wealth is an opportunity for further achievement.” Financial success enabled Mr. Sorenson to turn his attention to making the world a better place in which to live. One of his philanthropical endeavors, Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, is creating the world's most comprehensive correlated genetic and genealogical database, which may forever change the way ancestry research is done. By showing how closely human beings are tied by heredity, Mr. Sorenson believed he could promote peace, compassion and brotherhood among humankind.
Sorenson died Sunday morning, January 20, 2008 of cancer. He was 86.
You can read an article I wrote in 2004 about James LeVoy Sorenson at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2004/08/the_man_behind_.html. You can read his obituary at http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20080120005047&newsLang=en.