A Hero: Dr. Otto J. Smith, UC, Berkley, 1917-2009

When Granny Smith posted the obituary for her husband, Dr. Otto J Smith, on Sunday Scribblings, I could not help but visualize what he must have been like. Phyllis Smith the writer of the Granny Smith blog has long been a favorite of mine. She has over the months shared her life with fellow bloggers and her husband was, of course, a part of the story line in many, many cases. I could not help but feel that I knew him in some small way. But when I read the memories that her children and she had of his life and their effort to reflect what his life was about, I was truly moved. A list of accomplishments is never enough to really capture the full essence of a life lived with purpose and that is what they are wanting the world to see I think.

Let me say first, I did not know Dr. Smith. He lived in a world I could only dream about. Still, I was so touched by the list of accomplishment and the description that Phyllis said her children were working to complete. The list included:

* Guggenheim Fellow.
* R&D 100 Award in 1999 for technologically significant new product.
* Listed in the “Leaders of the Pack” In Tech’s 50 most influential industry innovators since 1774 .
* Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
* Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
* Visiting Research Fellow in Economics and Engineering, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.
* Honor Societies: Sigma Xi, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi (Engr.), Phi Lambda Upsilon (Chemistry), and Eta Kappa Nu (EE).

My mind led me to believe that the description that his children offered went beyond a list of degrees and awards. I felt they were talking about a man that wore his heart on his sleeve. Many of us have strong beliefs or we think we do. But we don’t necessarily act on them in any meaningful way. Dr. Smith was very worried about the state of our environment and his wife wrote that on the night before his death he worked as he had most his working life to find solutions for these problems. He was a pacifist that lived his life in such a way that there could be no doubt where he stood…on war, homelessness and other social causes.

I am adding Dr. Otto J. Smith, inventor, activist, father, husband and lover of animals to my list of heroes. He, like so many other unsung heroes, will be missed I am sure. Would that I could have said these words in person to him. I don’t think we say thank you nearly enough.

Thank you for listening.


Heroes (posted in 2007)
Russell Kirsch
Glen Miller…would you believe Norman Layden called?

The complete list of Heroes posts.


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