Thursday, February 14, 2008

3 Deaths in the Family

It is with sadness that we mark the passing on Monday of Harry Kihn, who served RCA and its laboratories and technologies with distinction and honor from the beginnings of television in 1939 to the beginnings of computer chips in 1977. A Life Fellow of the IEEE, Harry received 27 patents on everything from FM altimeters during World War II to "Kihn's Kolor Killer" for monochrome reception of color TV signals to digital decoder circuits for an early version of a cell phone. As a self-described "trouble shooter," in the second, corporate half of his career, Harry reviewed systems designs for the Air Force Autodin network and RCA's Spectra 70 computers, and carried out studies on a variety of subjects including digital communications, solid-state devices for consumer electronics, and laser projects at RCA.

Harry's dedication to the nomination of the IEEE Milestone for the invention of monochrome-compatible color television helps explain executive director Alex Magoun's commitment to the Library and the heritage it represents. He first met Harry while researching his dissertation topic at the Library in the mid 1990s, and Harry's explanation of the enormity of RCA's work in electronic television as well as the other technologies with which he was involved helped convince Alex that the Library deserved greater visibility.

Harry was 96. Please join us in offering condolences to his children, Michael and Les, and his grandsons, Edward and Thomas.

We also note the death of William C. "Wilkie" Wilkinson, who helped pioneer air-to-ground radar from World War II through the 1950s at the Princeton Labs before joining the Astro-Electronics Division in Hightstown. There he led the projects to develop antennas for the Apollo Lunar Orbiter, Excursion Module, and Lunar Rover, as well as the Viking Mars Lander. He wrote--and we wish we could read the rest of what must be a fascinating memoir--"For 53 years I was paid to do what I enjoyed doing." We should all be so fortunate, or determined.

And please join in extending sympathy to the Cuomo family, whose patriarch Frank died January 16. As a carpenter at the Princeton Labs from 1949 to 1991, Frank holds a special place in the history of the Library, for he designed and built the cabinetry, display mounts, and sliding frames therein under David Sarnoff's direction. If you've noticed the quality of the woodwork during a visit, you've admired the skill of this master craftsman.

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