For Buchele, Creativity Is The Mother Of Invention
At 92 Wesley Buchele continues to creatively solve problems. Along with his 23 patents, he has a website, a YouTube video, a radio blog and in 2008 co-authored a book about his childhood with his twin brother.
The book, Just Call Us Lucky, describes how a widowed mother with seven boys survived droughts, grasshopper infestations, dust storms and the Great Depression on a Kansas farm.
To survive, the seven brothers worked on and off the farm to feed the family and pay the mortgage. That’s how Buchele (PhD ’54 ag engineering and soil physics), got the idea for the large round baler.
“I was on a baling crew when I was 16 and it was 115 degrees in the shade, but there was no shade,” Buchele says. “I made an oath to myself that I would eliminate those small square balers.”
He did that and more. Buchele, Iowa State University professor emeritus in agricultural engineering, is well known for developing and patenting the first large round baler in 1966 with graduate student Virgil Haverdink (’64 agricultural engineering, MS ’67).
Buchele says seeing and solving problems is what he does.
“I can no longer keep myself from inventing, than I can keep myself from breathing,” Buchele says. “I’m not sure where I heard that, but it applies to my life.”
Buchele’s other inventions include a rotary-flow threshing cylinder used in American combines and rollover protective devices for tractors. He also started the first agricultural safety class in the United States in 1972 at Iowa State.
He built a tandem tractor in 1954, that had two tractor fronts and two steering wheels, but one driver. The combination of two tractors each able to pull a two-bottom plow, allowed Buchele to pull a six-bottom plow and get 50 percent more power.
In 2010, Buchele was one of five engineers nominated to the Product Design and Development Design Engineer Class of 2010 Hall of Fame. He is one of 13 engineers in the Hall of Fame that include Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci.
Buchele earned his bachelor’s at Kansas State University and master’s at the University of Arkansas before beginning his doctorate at Iowa State. He taught briefly at Michigan State University before joining the faculty at Iowa State in 1963 where he worked until 1989.
Mark Hanna (’73 agricultural engi- neering, MS ’75, PhD ’91), an Iowa State agricultural engineer, remembers Buchele’s entertaining lectures, which resulted in questions, rebuttals and discussion.
“His lectures and exercises on brain- storming to creatively solve machinery and other problems were legendary,” Hanna says. “I don’t recall what tuition cost at the time, but I got more than my money’s worth.”
Buchele’s innovativeness, he says, comes more from being creative than academic. He says lots of people can get great grades, but not many are creative.