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Biographical Memoirs, Volume 85
JOHN ROBINSON PIERCE
March 27, 1910–April 2, 2002
BY EDWARD E. DAVID, JR., MAX V. MATHEWS, AND A. MICHAEL NOLL
JOHN ROBINSON PIERCE is most renowned for being the father of communications satellites, namely, Echo and Telstar. He was also an active stimulator of innovative research in his division at Bell Labs from the mid-1950s to 1971. He was able to challenge and inspire many of the brightest researchers in communication science and technology, leading to a host of discoveries and innovations that created today’s digital era. All who knew him were affected by his wit and quick, intelligent grasp of science and technology. He was a gifted author, not only of books that explained communication science and technology to nontechnicians but also of science fiction. His many keen comments are treasured memories of him that continue to inspire his many friends and colleagues. This wit led him to coin the term “transistor” for the device that his colleagues at Bell Labs had invented. We have all benefited from his innovativeness, intelligence, energy, and enthusiasm for communication science and technology.
John Robinson Pierce was born on March 27, 1910, in Des Moines, Iowa, an only child of John Starr Pierce and Harriet Ann Pierce. Although neither parent had gone beyond high school, they recognized their son’s talents and