Pierce, John Robinson (1910–2002)

John Pierce was an American communications engineer who is commonly referred to as the father of the communications satellite for his work on it, beginning in 1954 (although the concept had first been suggested by Arthur C. Clarke.. Pierce was employed for 35 years as an engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories (rising to become executive director of the Research-Communications Principles Division), where he coined the term "transistor," and then at the California Institute of Technology and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). He urged NASA to build a satellite based on his design, and it was launched in 1960 as Echo 1. The project's success led to the construction and 1962 launch of the first commercial communications satellite, Telstar 1. Pierce was among several engineers and scientists who, in the early years of the Space Age, cast doubt on the feasibility of interstellar travel.1 A similar position was adopted by Edward Purcell and Sebastien von Hoerner.


John Robinson Pierce



1. Pierce, J. R. "Relativity and Space Travel," Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, 47, 1053 (1959).