Jay Last, a Father of Silicon Valley, Dies at 92

IEEE also mourns the loss of several former society presidents

4 min read
A smiling older man in glasses

Jay Last

Max S. Gerber/Redux

Jay Last

Silicon Valley pioneer

Life member, 92; died 11 November

Last is considered to be one of the eight “Fathers of Silicon Valley,” according to the 2013 book Secrets of Silicon Valley.

After earning his Ph.D. in physics in 1959 from MIT, he was recruited by transistor coinventor William Shockley to be a laboratory assistant at his Semiconductor Laboratory, a division of Beckman Instruments near San Francisco. Last left after about a year and with seven of his colleagues founded Fairchild Semiconductor, headquartered in San Jose, Calif. The company’s founders laid the “specialized, economic, and cultural foundation for Silicon Valley,” according to the World Business News.

When Fairchild was formed, transistors were typically produced one at a time out of germanium. Last led a research team that developed mass-production processes for silicon chips that built both the transistors and the wires on the same sheet of silicon. The chips initially went into military hardware and spacecraft but have since been employed in computers, smartphones, and smartwatches.

Last left Fairchild in 1961 to help establish the semiconductor division at Teledyne, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The division’s engineers and researchers developed and manufactured complex IC chips for Teledyne programs and space and military applications. Many of the circuits were used in the control and data systems for the first space voyage to the moon.

Last eventually became vice president of technology, overseeing more than 150 divisions before retiring in 1974.

After retiring, he founded Hillcrest Press, which publishes books on California art styles. In 1980 he founded the Archaeological Conservancy, a nonprofit that strives to preserve U.S. archaeological sites. The conservancy has saved more than 500 sites, according to its website.

Last received his bachelor’s degree in optics in 1951 from the University of Rochester, in New York.

Davide Giri

Ph.D. candidate in computer science

Graduate student member, 30; died 2 December

Giri, a doctoral candidate at Columbia, was fatally stabbed near the school’s New York City campus while walking home after soccer practice.

He grew up in northern Italy, near Turin. He moved to the United States in 2013 and earned his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2016 from the University of Illinois Chicago.

John William Stafford

Former president of the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society

Fellow, 89; died 27 November

Stafford conducted research in stress analysis of aircraft and nuclear reactor control drive mechanisms. He was a registered professional engineer in Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.

He was an active IEEE member who served in several leadership positions including the 1998–1999 president of the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society. He was a 1987 IEEE congressional Fellow in the office of Sen. Alfonse D’Amato of New York.

Stafford served as an active-duty commissioned officer with the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1956. He served as a maintenance officer with the 822nd bomb squadron, based out of Laon, France. He was on active duty with the Air Force Reserve from 1956 to 1962, when he was assigned to the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.

After being honorably discharged, he worked at several companies including Bell Laboratories, the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, and Motorola.

While working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., he helped develop the mechanical design and manufacturing of Telstar, the world’s first active communications satellite, which launched in 1962.

At Motorola, Stafford created the company’s Graduate Fellowship for Research on Electronic Packaging. The fellowship, formed in concert with the EPS, is awarded annually for the best student paper presented at the IEEE Electronic Components and Technology Conference. He retired from Motorola in 2001 and founded JWS Home Consulting in Phoenix.

Throughout his career, he worked on emergency power sources for telephone sites, developed integrated circuit masks, and designed LEDs, lasers, and electronic subsystems.

Stafford earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from MIT and his master’s degree in applied mechanics and electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering). He also received a master’s degree in business from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.

Gerald L. Engel

Former president of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology

Life Fellow, 76; died in August 2018

Engel served in several leadership positions within IEEE, including Division V director, chair of the ethics committee, and member-at-large on the IEEE Board of Directors. He was the 2005 president of the IEEE Computer Society and served as the 1999–2000 and 2011–2012 president of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology.

He held teaching and research positions at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Old Dominion University, and Christopher Newport University before joining the faculty of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, in 1984. He taught computer science and engineering at the university for more than 30 years.

From 1991 to 1993, he served as a program director of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. He also served as 1994–1995 acting deputy director at NSF for computer and computation research.

Engel played an instrumental role in establishing the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board. He also led the integration of CSAB and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, a global organization for academic programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. He served as the first chair of the Computer Science Accreditation Commission, an ABET member society that handles degree programs in computer science, cybersecurity, data science, information systems, information technology, and software engineering.

Engel was a program evaluator for both ABET and CSAC, vice president of CSAB, and a member of the ABET board of directors.

He received the 1991 Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Service Award and in 1994 was named an ACM Fellow.

Engel earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964 from Hampden-Sydney College, in Virginia, and a master’s degree in 1965 from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In 1974 he received a Ph.D. in education from Pennsylvania State University in State College.

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