Notable deaths of 2014 from the worlds of technology, science & inventions

In memoriam: We mourn the passing of IDG and MIT’s own Patrick McGovern, and other industry influencers.

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2014 has been a particularly tough year for those of us at IDG who mourn the loss of Patrick McGovern, founder and chairman of the company, this past March. Here’s our tribute to Pat and others who contributed much to our lives but are with us no longer. (IDG News Service contributed to this report.)

LOOK BACK: 2013 deaths from tech, science and inventions

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Patrick McGovern: IDG Founder and Chairman (died March 20 at the age of 76)

In 1964, with the computer industry still in its infancy, McGovern founded International Data Corporation (IDC), now an IDG subsidiary, to provide the industry with timely and reliable statistics on information technology markets. Three years later, McGovern launched Computerworld, a weekly print publication dedicated to keeping computer buyers apprised of industry and product news. Computerworld became IDG's flagship publication, and in 1972, McGovern began exporting the Computerworld concept, launching Shukan Computer in Japan.

Over a span of 50 years, McGovern oversaw IDG's launch of more than 300 magazines and newspapers and championed the expansion of IDG's network to include more than 460 websites, 200 mobile apps and 700 events worldwide. Today, IDG brands are found in 97 countries and include CIO, CSO, Computerworld, GamePro, IDC, IDG Connect, IDG TechNetwork, IDG World Expo, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, PC World and TechHive. MORE

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Ralph Baer, Father of Video Games (Died Dec. 6, age 92)

Long before the Xbox came the Brown Box, a creation that defense contractor engineer Ralph Baer and colleagues built in the late 1960s that would become known as the first real video game system. The German-born American worked on what would become the first multi-player video game console while employed at defense contractor Sanders Associates, which licensed it to TV maker Magnovox. That company brought the system to market in 1972 as the Odyssey, and spawned what is now an industry worth tens of billions of dollars.

Baer's accomplishments, which also included creating popular electronic toys like the single-chip memory game Simon and early work on CD-ROMs and digital imagery, have been recognized many times over. He was named a National Medal of Technology winner in 2004 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.

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George Heilmeier: LCD pioneer (Died April 21, age 77)

An electrical engineer schooled at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, Heilmeier in the 1960s while working for RCA Labs came up with a new sort of screen for projecting images using liquid crystals. Today, LCDs are used in everything from watches to computers to flat-screen TVs. After leaving RCA, Heilmeier went on to work on military technology for the U.S. government, including as the director of DARPA. MORE

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Stephanie Kwolek: Inventor of Kevlar (died June 18, age 90)

In 1964, this American chemist who worked at DuPont for 40 years, synthesized an aromatic polymer that produced a durable and exceptionally strong fiber now known as Kevlar – the material used in body armor worn by police officers and soldiers. Among her recognitions: induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Medal of Technology. MORE

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Jack Wayman: Founder of CES trade show (Died Aug. 30, age 92)

CES founder Jack Wayman was a veteran of the consumer electronics industry in the U.S. A World War II veteran, Wayman was part of the Office of Strategic Services, a CIA forerunner, and interrogated German soldiers at the end of the war, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. After the war, he worked as a sales manager for RCA, and then the Electronic Industries Association (EIA), promoting color TV and the VCR when the introduction of the latter technology sparked legal disputes over copyright infringement. He also helped establish electronics industries in Taiwan. To gadget lovers, however, Wayman was best known for presiding over the inaugural CES in 1967 and later becoming its patriarch. The first trade show had only 100 exhibitors and 17,000 attendees. The latest CES in January 2014 had over 3,600 exhibitors and 160,000 attendees. 

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Richard Battin: Led design of Apollo mission guidance computer (Died Feb. 8, age 88)

An electrical engineer and mathematician from MIT, where he later taught, Battin developed and led the analytic and software design of the Apollo spacecraft primary control, guidance and navigation system that landed men on the moon in the 1960s.

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Herb Lotman: Father of the Chicken McNugget (died May 8, age 80)

Lotman founded McDonald’s food beef, chicken and fish supplier Keystone Foods, after starting in the industry with his family’s wholesale beef business. In the late 1960s, Lotman and his partners pioneered cryogenics for McDonald's and developed a mass-production system for the manufacture of frozen hamburgers. They were also instrumental in helping develop the Chicken McNugget in the1980s. MORE

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Clarence “Skip’ Ellis: Groupware pioneer (Died May 17, age 71)

The first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in computer science (1969, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Ellis went on to work at Bell Labs, Xerox PARC and taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder. While at Xerox Parc, he and his team created OfficeTalk, among the first groupware systems.

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Roger Easton: Father of GPS (Died May 8, age 93)

This American scientist and National Medal of Technology recipient worked his entire career at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he was involved in numerous important navigational system developments, including the satellite programs called the Vanguard Project and Minitrack. He’s best known, however, for designing the Timation for Time-Navigation technology that became known in the 1970s as the Global Positioning System after the Department of Defense adopted its use.

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U-T San Diego

Andrew Kay: Founder of Kaypro home PC maker (Died Aug. 28, age 95)

This MIT engineering grad and San Diego technology entrepreneur not only invented the digital voltmeter while with Non-Linear Systems in 1954, but later went on to start Kaypro, one of the early makers of home PCs. Kaypro’s first offering, the Kaypro II, weighed 29 pounds but was considered a portable computer, and ran Digital Research’s C/PM operating system. It cost nearly $1,800. MORE

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Ken Forsse: Inventor of Teddy Ruxpin toy (Died March 19, age 77)

Forsse worked for big-time entertainment companies such as Disney (he worked on their theme park’s Haunted Mansion attraction) and Sid & Marty Kroft Entertainment, then founded a company called Alchemy II that created animatronic characters that appeared on TV shows. Among his creations: animatronic talking bear Teddy Ruxpin, the best selling toy of 2005-2006.

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Edmund Abel: Invented Mr. Coffee machine (Died April 21, age 92)

This World War II veteran and largely self-taught engineer who says he never drank coffee is credited with designing and patenting the heating element that enabled the Mr. Coffee machine to become a runaway consumer product hit in the 1970s.

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Jack Rockart: Co-founded IT research center at MIT (Died on Feb. 3, age 82)

Rockart was an organizational theorist and management instructor who along with several colleagues at MIT created the Center for Information Systems Research, which focused on best practices for using technology in the workplace. Rockart served as the center’s director for 26 years. MORE

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John Akers: IBM CEO (Died Aug. 22, age 79)

Akers, a Yale business graduate and Navy veteran, served as Big Blue’s president from 1983 to 1989 and as its CEO from 1985 to 1993. Akers joined IBM in the 1960s as a sales trainee and experienced his greatest success in IBM’s mainframe business, led by the System/360. He led IBM during the ascent and decline of its PC business.

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Will Radcliff: Slush Puppy creator (Died Sept 18, age 74)

This American businessman invented the popular flavored slush beverage in 1974 and grew it into a multimillion dollar business that eventually was acquired by Cadbury Schweppes. According to his obituary, Radcliff spotted a slush machine at a 1970 Chicago trade show and saw the possibilities of creating sweet drinks with it. “He thought the sound of icy crystals hitting the cup, the smell and taste of flavorings and the texture pleased all the senses.”