The Zara Effect

“All this begun because he had goals and dreams…”

-Araneta, Cruz, Encarnacion, Enriquez, Fucio, Sanchez, Sol Cruz


     Success begins with dreaming big and most definitely Dr. Gregorio Y. Zara knew this to be true. He was an exemplar in the field of innovation and science, donning him recognitions and awards such as the Presidential Diploma of Merit (1959), Distinguished Service Medal (1959), Presidential Gold Award and Diploma of Honor for Science and Research (1966), and the Cultural Heritage Award for Science Education and Aero Engineering (1996). With all these achievements, it should come to you as no surprise that former President Ferdinand Marcos named Dr. Zara as one of our national scientists earning him probably his most prestigious award of all. Exactly how Gregorio Zara was able to attain such praise and recognition you will find out, starting with his humble beginnings.

                     Zara: One of Science’s Gifts to the Philippines

     Born on March 8, 1902 in Lipa, Batangas to a poor family was Gregorio Zara. His profound interest and talent for science and engineering was shown by his ability to device an artesian well to provide water for his family’s farm at a very young age. Despite the economic boundaries social class allows he was able to soar high through his strong determination for success. He finished as Valedictorian in elementary, as well as in high school. He continued his studies, initially, in the University of the Philippines before sailing to the United States to further widen the breadth of his perspective. He obtained his degree in Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1926 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his degree in Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering as a Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan.

“…aside from everything mentioned above he also invented, he is after all also an inventor.”

     It can be said that Zara is the epitome of the term ‘excelsior’, in that he always aimed for a higher level of education. True to his nature, he continued to obtain more titles as he obtained his Doctor of Science degree as a Magna Cum Laude from Sorbonne University in Paris in 1930. Dr. Zara was honored by being assigned into the office of the Secretary of Department of Public Works and Communications as technical assistant on aviation matters. Eventually he went on to become DPWC’s Aeronautical Division’s chief. He held numerous other positions, being considered an expert in the field, such as technical editor of Aviation Monthly, Vice Chairman of the National Science Development Board, and at times its acting chairman. He also held the position of being the director of the Aeronautical Board for 21 years.

One of Zara’s inventions, the videophone

     He did not only do work for the government in the field of science, he also taught as an instructor for Feati University before eventually becoming their Dean of Engineering and Vice President. He wrote papers on different science topics and textbooks for physics, algebra and plane trigonometry. His contributions did not stop there because he is after all

one of our renowned engineers, aside from everything mentioned above he also invented, he is after all also an inventor.

     His inventions focused two main themes, practicality and its being revolutionary. He was able to create the first alcohol powered engine and was the main proponent of the first flight of an alcohol engine powered airplane during 1954, the engine ran faster than gasoline powered ones. He was also able to create a machine to cut and produce wooden propellers deemed airworthy by the Philippine Air Force. He also created the Earth Induction Compass, General Marex -IC (a robot that can talk, walk, and obey simple commands before robots appeared on the television), Vapor Chamber, Videophone. He also created the Philippines’ first thermo-solar energy machine able to generate power enough to run air conditioning units and refrigerators. And most important of all in our opinion, (for it shows his practicality and goal for efficiency) he was able to design during the 1960s solar stoves, batteries and water heaters which can be used by the rural community and are environment-friendly.

     This Dr. Gregorio Y. Zara while being given numerous opportunities (given his credentials who would be surprised?) with other scientific communities abroad chose to invent in and work for the Philippines. This all the more shows just how dedicated this man was for the development of the country. All this begun because he had goals and dreams he wanted to attain despite being born in a poor family and that led to his success.

     On October 15, 1978, Dr. Zara passed away due to heart failure at the age of 76. He was given a state funeral by the Philippine government and buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani at Fort Bonifacio.


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