Alumni Hall of Fame 2001 | SRI International

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Alumni Hall of Fame 2001

George Abrahamson

Each member of the SRI Alumni Hall of Fame has made a lasting contribution to SRI. George Abrahamson has never stopped contributing to SRI—and probably never will. George started at SRI in 1953 as a machinist for Dr. Thomas Poulter. His Ph.D. thesis research was conducted during 1957 in the backyard of Poulter Lab’s original home, the tarpaper shacks along the back fence. The key ingredients were a clothesline, a water hose, and a pan of silly putty. George’s thesis and early papers were the first to describe the phenomenon of explosive (or impact) welding. In the late 1950s, virtually single-handedly, George developed a program for the Air Force to simulate the effects of nuclear weapons on re-entry vehicles. He led a team that made SRI a key developer and tester of vulnerability and lethality criteria for our missile and ABM systems exposed to nuclear attack.

As director of Poulter Lab, George led development of many innovative uses of high explosives and propellants. Many of his ideas in scale modeling of dynamic phenomena are in constant use today in Poulter Laboratory and throughout the world. George held Poulter Lab together during the lean years of decreased defense funding, and he spurred the staff to move into more work for commercial and international clients. Poulter Lab has now survived for almost 50 years.

In 1980, George became Vice President of the Physical Sciences Division and, in 1988, Senior Vice President of the Sciences Group. He retired in 1991 to be Chief Scientist of the Air Force, then returned to SRI in 1994 as a Senior Technical Advisor. In 1999, he provided temporary leadership of the Physical Sciences Division during a difficult transition period. George is now a world expert in designing performance review and compensation methods, based on the ideas he developed at SRI. These methods are being implemented in the U. S. military and by at least one foreign corporation. George helped form and currently leads the SRI Alumni Association.

George was best known for his success in gaining—and keeping—the trust and respect of clients. His motto was, “Always give your clients more than they paid for. But at the beginning, promise them as little as possible.” George Abrahamson is a model of the ideal SRI citizen; he has helped us all to have a lot of excitement and fun and continues to do so.

Dale Coulson

Dale joined SRI in 1953 and retired after 31 years of a distinguished career. His innovative research and development in analytical chemistry resulted in the establishment of the Chemistry Laboratory’s Analytical Chemistry Department, which produced pioneering research on identifying and measuring pesticide residues in the environment. The group has been in continual operation now for 46 years.

Dr. Coulson developed several innovative methods of producing standard reference samples, which the EPA used to set standards for detecting pollutants and toxic chemicals in water. He devised equipment for dynamic generation of test atmospheres containing mixtures of toxic substances ranging from dusts and fumes to solid and liquid aerosols and asbestos. He holds patents on apparatus for electrochemical detection and coulometric titration, a system for detecting and analyzing trace gases, an electrochemical detector cell, and a pyrolysis furnace. He is the author of fifty publications.

In 1974, the Association of Official Analytical Chemists presented Dale with the Harvey H. Wiley Award in recognition of his pioneering effort in applying gas chromatography to the analysis of pesticide residues, which revolutionized trace analysis by permitting the rapid simultaneous detection and determination of most of the common pesticides in a single operation at the previously unattainable level of parts per billion. The award also recognized his inventiveness in devising element selective detectors, which added specificity to the inherent properties of selectivity and sensitivity of the multi-residue method for pesticides.

Dale assisted government agencies in applying this new technique to regulatory problems, and he guided and inspired others in analytical methodology through teaching and publications. Although the Analytical Chemistry Department’s programs have varied in emphasis and content, the Department's Proficiency Analytical Testing program, begun by Dale, has continued to the present. The project produces standard samples for laboratories to test their analysis proficiency at a revenue rate of more than $1 million per year. Dale’s dedication and scientific skills have contributed significantly to the enduring success of SRI.

Phil Green

Phil Green was one of SRI's best managers, inventors, and promoters—a combination of skills that creates success at SRI. After his graduation, Phil Green was doing research at Lockheed on acoustic imaging for underwater detection, using very low frequency and long wavelength ultrasound energy. He believed that, if the frequency of the ultrasound was greatly increased, the resulting shorter wavelength would allow imaging of much smaller structures, for example, in the human body.

When Phil Green moved to SRI in 1968, he joined the very small bioengineering activity scattered about the Engineering Group. Hew Crane was working on visual instruments; Jim Bliss was working on bio-information systems; George Eilers was interested in ocular tonometry. When Phil Green began seeking grant support for his fledgling ultrasonic imaging activity, he also visited many commercial companies and formed alliances with local medical groups. This early exploration paid off later in commercial contracts with many biomedical companies and a firm base of clinical expertise with major medical centers, such as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. One of his early successful grants was a three-year study of ultrasonic effects on human tissues, an investigation done jointly by the Engineering Group and Life Sciences. As Phil's reputation in the field grew, commercial clients began funding instrumentation development at SRI.

Phil was particularly good at attracting and hiring new staff, especially young, enthusiastic engineers and physicists. He ran a very hard-working but light-hearted group of researchers. In the early 1980s, his team was responsible for late-night secret installation of the SRI Gargoyle atop the new, sleekly modern P-Building stacks.

Phil was a prolific inventor, amassing numerous valuable patents on ultrasonic engineering and other applications of bioengineering. He developed the minimally invasive tele-presence surgery concept and minimally invasive instrumentation and techniques, which allow doctors the same dexterity and precision as open surgery, but through small incisions. These patents formed the basis of SRI's startup company, Intuitive Surgical, Inc., which went public in June 2000 and is expected to be a resounding success for SRI. Phil Green’s lasting contributions to SRI include innovative technology, millions in patent royalties, and a promising new spin-off company.

Kitta Reeds

For 35 years, Kitta Reeds edited or wrote about 300 proposals a year—that’s over 10,000 proposals—ranging from $25,000 to $25 million. Kitta Reeds joined SRI in 1964 and became a technical writer/editor in 1970. She edited for all parts of SRI, but primarily for the physical and life sciences groups. As Manager of Publications for the Sciences Group, Kitta streamlined the proposal process to relieve the researchers of all the details of proposal preparation except writing of the technical sections. She summarized the requirements of each Request for Proposal to help the people who prepared the cost and contractual parts of the proposal and who were responsible for approval and mailing. Kitta was the first to put all the contractual provisions for proposals on-line so that the Business Office could prepare that part of proposals easily.

Kitta constantly reminded SRI's proposal writers to "write about what your client wants to buy—not just what you want to sell.” She prepared detailed outlines for each major proposal to make sure that it complied precisely with the Request for Proposal, met all the client’s evaluation criteria, and made it easy for the proposal evaluators to appreciate our concept and award a contract.

Kitta went far beyond her job as an editor. She designed and led workshops to train staff in proposal writing. She was a coach, cheerleader, and confidante to many a project leader. Her loyalty to SRI staff and to the organization as a whole was unwavering. She was unafraid to speak her mind (and she did so effectively) when she thought people were not acting in the best interests of the organization. As chair of the Institute Staff Advisory Group in 1984-1985, she led SRI staff in discussing issues with SRI’s top managers.

Kitta never did a forty-hour week; she stayed late, came in on weekends, and generally exhibited a spirit of teamwork that was exemplary. Kitta routinely performed wonders for the sometimes inexperienced, almost always tardy, proposal authors, turning their initial efforts into clear, organized, winning proposals. Remarkably, she accomplished these transformations without changing the meaning of the technical information the writer wanted to convey while working under exacting deadline pressure. Kitta Reeds left to SRI the legacy of high writing standards and writers capable of meeting those standards.

Carl Titus

Carl Titus came to SRI in 1949 as employee number 89; he was one of Jesse Hobson’s colleagues from Armour Research Foundation. In 1951 he was put in charge of the Associates Program, which was set up to obtain equity capital for SRI from companies that would become Associates of SRI and be given special access to SRI research findings. Titus’s involvement followed a speech by David Sarnoff at the Fairmont Hotel on November 14, 1951, in which Sarnoff enthusiastically presented the need for industry to support organizations like SRI to enable industry to stay in touch with research: “{SRI} is important not just because it has fine laboratories and able researchers, which it certainly has, but because it is an outstanding example of the natural partnership between research and industry.”

At the end of 1952, the cumulative total from the Associates Program was $783,000, with an additional $375,000 in pledges. The program was already a success and it was clear that the $1.5 million goal would be achieved. The importance of the first $783,000 of Associates’ support cannot be over-emphasized. It literally made the difference between a financially strapped organization and one with some financial security. Fred Kamphoefner recalls seeing a financial report at one point that showed the net worth of the Institute to be about the same as the total dollars that had been raised by the Associates Program. The program also led to important research relationships: by the end of 1955, at least 73 of the first 100 Associates had become clients of SRI. Fred recalls that “in my laboratory in the sixties, 85% of our contracts were for SRI Associates.”

Many played a role in getting new companies into the Associates Program, but it was Carl Titus who saw to it that all went along in an orderly way. He was well liked by our Associates and did an excellent job in a quiet way. He left SRI in 1971. As Hoot Gibson said in his book, “More credit is due him than has ever been recognized in a lasting way. He was our equity capital man.”