Mentors in Memorium: Jacob Goldman (1921-2011)

Jacob_GoldmanMr. Goldman, a physicist, was the chief scientist at Xerox in the 1960’s. While there he founded the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which invented the modern personal computer. At the time computers were typically not available in offices, and little was known about what shape the invention of the personal computer would take for the office of the future. Mr. Goldman’s vision convinced Xerox to invest in the future, even if it didn’t know what to do with the returns. PARC researchers designed a number of innovations including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing, and the graphical user interface.

The technologies he spearheaded eventually were commercialized by Apple and Microsoft, prompting Mr. Goldman to lament in a 1988 interview: “Xerox’s failure was part of a large corporation’s unwillingness to take risks. Look at the personal computer industry today. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry. And we at Xerox could have had that industry to ourselves.”

He acted as a mentor to many scientists and helped them to create a larger vision for whatever projects they created. He brought the idea to management that they may have to wait some time to gain practical value from scientific work.

 

More details about Mr. Goldman are available in the obituary in the NY Times (here).

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