William Kamkwamba was born in penury or extreme poverty in Kasungu, Malawi in 1987.
At a young age of 14, he successfully built a wind turbine to power multiple electrical appliances in his family’s house in Wimbe, 32 km (20 miles) east of Kasungu, using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard.
A crippling famine forced William to drop out of school, and he was not able to return to school because his family was unable to afford it. In an attempt to retain his education, Kamkwamba began to frequently visit the local school library. It was there that Kamkwamba discovered his true love for electronics.
Kamkwamba, on reading a book called Using Energy, decided to create a makeshift wind turbine. He experimented with a small model using a cheap dynamo and eventually made a functioning wind turbine that powered few electrical appliances in his family’s house. Local farmers and journalists investigated the spinning device and Kamkwamba’s fame in international news skyrocketed.
William’s story was covered by The Daily Times in Blantyre in 2006. Eventually, he started giving interviews. This helped him secure funding for his secondary education which he completed from African Bible College Christian Academy in Lilongwe. He then went on to receive a scholarship to the African Leadership Academy and in 2014 graduated from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
He authored a memoir named The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
In 2010, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind was selected as the University of Florida and Boise State University common book, required for all incoming students to read.