From 1955 to 1956, while studying for his master’s degree, Russ was a consultant to General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York. In 1958, he joined United Aircraft Research Laboratories (UARL), East Hartford, Connecticut, as principal scientist in plasma physics. When the name of the company was later changed to UTC, UARL became United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), as it is still known today.
When Russ joined UARL, the research laboratories were beginning a major effort to expand basic research activities in the physical sciences while continuing strong programs in applied engineering research focused on propulsion and aerodynamic technologies. With his wide range of technical interests, outstanding talent, and contagious enthusiasm for being on the cutting edge of science and technologies, Russ soon became a “bright star” in the research center, and his responsibilities were steadily increased. He was promoted to chief research scientist in 1964, director of research in 1967, vice president of research and development of UTC (while also serving as director of research of UTRC) in 1980, and vice president of technology in 1982, a position he held until 1989 when he retired at the age of 56.
Russ was instrumental in assembling a research staff capable of conducting an expanded, long-term research program. Under his direction, the program prospered and made notable advances in plasma physics, high-energy lasers, electro-optics, fiber-optics, adoptive optics, integrated optics, and new propulsion concepts. His major research contribution (published in 1963 and 1964) was in explaining the physics of gas breakdown at optical frequencies and how optical-energy absorption from laser radiation could yield high-density plasmas. This research was cited in his election to membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).
Under Russ’s leadership, UTRC’s staff grew to 1,500, including a high-power optics group in West Palm Beach, Florida, initially intended to support UTC’s expansion into aerospace technologies. Later, in the 1970s, the group supported the UTC companies-acquisition program, under the leadership of Harry Gray. Russ was the impetus for a strategy for obtaining funding for the research center from three sources: one-third from other divi-