Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - William Alden Edson's memorial

William Alden Edson
Oct. 30, 1912-April 13, 2012
Fairfield, California

Submitted by Margaret Edson-Smith

William Alden Edson, a pioneer in microwave technology and circuit theory, died April 13, 2012, in Fairfield, Calif., just 6 months shy of his 100th birthday.

Born in 1912 in Burchard, Neb., Bill Edson graduated from the University of Kansas with bachelor's and masters degrees in electrical engineering, and received his Sc.D. degree from Harvard University.

He began his career at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City in 1937. After a brief stay at Illinois Institute of Technology to co-author Hyper and Ultrahigh Frequency Engineering with Bob Sarbacher, returned to Bell Labs to support the war effort. He met Saralou Peterson in New York, and they were married in 1942.

They moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1945 where he was Professor and Director of the School of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He wrote the manuscript for his book Vacuum-Tube Oscillators during that time, published in 1953 by John Wiley. In 1952 he was recruited by Fred Terman of Stanford University to aid in the development of the nation's largest program for Ph.D. level electrical engineering as Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University. This group was part of the nucleus that spawned the explosion of technology that became known as Silicon Valley. Two years later he joined the General Electric Microwave Laboratory at Stanford, Calif., and eventually was responsible for all Klystrons manufactured by GE.

In 1954 he founded Electromagnetic Technology Corporation (EMTECH) with three colleagues, and became President. In 1970 he negotiated the sale of the company to American Electronic Laboratories. He then joined SRI International for the rest of his career, leading a large laboratory, and continuing as a consultant into his 80s, pursuing a wide variety of projects around the globe.

He holds 15 patents for inventions spanning the years from 1944 to 1963. In 1957 he was named a Life Fellow by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and in 1984 he was awarded a Centennial Medal celebrating IEEE's 100th anniversary.

He is survived by his three daughters, Judith Edson, Margaret Edson-Smith and Carolyn McClain; three grandchildren and two great-grandsons. His fourth "daughter," Elisabeth Uldall of Denmark, joined the Edsons as an exchange student for a year in 1960, and has remained a close member of the family ever since. His wife, Saralou Peterson Edson, passed away in 2000. He was a beloved uncle to the children and grandchildren of his brother James and sister Lois. The surviving members of the family miss him dearly.

He loved poetry, and continued to write poems through his later years. He also loved riddles, puzzles, and puns, and delighted in producing a real groaner for his family and friends. He travelled widely, often visiting former students and colleagues. His loss is deeply felt.

Tags: teacher/educator, business

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Memorial service
There will be a celebration of his life on Sunday, June 10, at Stanford Research Institute, at 2:30 p.m., in Building G at 700 Laurel St., Menlo Park.

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