Gourdine is generally recognized as one of the twentieth-century's pioneers in energy conversion , which is the science of converting fossil fuels to useful heat and electricity with as little pollution and energy loss as possible.Gourdine was born in New Jersey and raised in New York City. He first attended a Catholic elementary school, where he became interested in math and science. After graduating from Brooklyn Tech, Gourdine entered Cornell University,where he studied math, physics, and engineering. While a college student, heparticipated in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, and won the silver medal in the long broad jump. After finishing his studies at Cornell, Gourdinewent on to earn his Ph.D. in Engineering Science at the California Instituteof Technology, eventually working at Jet Propulsion Laboratories in California and as chief scientist aeronaut at the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Findingthat his interests were in the theories and practical applications of electrogasdynamics (EGD), which is the conversion of gases into high-voltage electricity, he founded his own manufacturing firm, Gourdine Systems Incorporated,which Gourdine Systems eventually merged with Fabricating Engineering Incorporated in 1966 and became known as Gourdine Laboratories. Gourdine also founded Energy Innovations, a research and manufacturing institution, in 1974. Although scientists had been aware of electrogasdynamics since the 1700s, they were unable to produce a cost-effective system that could produce large amountsof energy without the need for large steam turbines and boilers. Gourdine developed a compact power generator that allowed very large forces to operate within a small space. The key to the generator was the development of the EGDchannel. Gourdine explained: "What we contributed to the technology was a wayto generate big enough forces. We had to make the generator compact, to crowd the ions into a very small space so that the charged particles could work very hard on gas moving down the channel. It's the geometry and shape of the channel which is the fundamental reason why we can get big forces and generatea lot of power in a small space." In the 1960s Gourdine examined the possibility of setting up an electrogasdynamic power station that used coal and other fossil fuels for the United States Department of the Interior. These innovations have also been used in automotive exhaust systems and dust monitors inindustrial settings. Gourdine's industries have also been responsible for Incineraid, a device that cleans industrial smoke of its hard contaminants as it passes through smoke stacks and is released into the air. Gourdine and his associates have also invented machinery and processes which disperse fog from airport runways and are used in industrial painting and coating processes.