Piore, Emanuel Ruben, 1908-2000

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Piore received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1935. His career has included serving as vice-president, chief scientist, and director of IBM, as well as deputy chief and chief scientist for the Office of Naval Research. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences.

From the description of Emanuel Ruben Piore papers, circa 1918-1986. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 154306135

Emanuel Ruben Piore was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 19 July 1908 to Ruben and Olga Piore. Piore's early education was provided by a personal tutor, though he later attended school. When the Germans occupied of Vilnius during the First World War, Emanuel and his mother were granted permission to leave. Piore later speculated that his mother had two reasons for leaving: first, to distance herself from Piore's father, whom she felt was a "bad influence," and second, to distance herself from her mother for whom she, as the eldest daughter, was expected to care.

In the fall of 1916, Piore and his mother stopped briefly in Berlin and then proceeded to Rotterdam, Holland, where they embarked on the S.S. Rotterdam for America. The trip was only underway two days when the Germans forced the ship to return to port, and for six months the Piore's were housed in dorms provided by the Holland-American Line. Piore had fond memories of his time there writing that he, "had no worries and enjoyed living on the edge of a business port." In May 1917, he and his mother once again boarded the Rotterdam, and after a perilous crossing, landed on New York's Ellis Island.

Almost as soon as he arrived, Piore was enrolled in a New York City public school, assigned to the first grade due to his inability to speak English. Apparently undaunted, it was not long before he caught up to his peers and surpassed them, winning a scholarship to the Ethical Culture School at age 13. It was here that he first became intrigued with science after reading as book by Arthur S. Eddington. He did so well at Ethical that he skipped a year and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin.

When asked how he became a physicist Piore stated simply, "physics had fewer degree requirements then math," though he was quick to reiterate the important impact that Eddington's book had on his decision. He earned both his his BA (1930) and doctorate in physics (1935) at Wisconsin, after which he found employment in the electrical research laboratory of the Radio Corporation of America.

Much of his work at RCA centered on the development of television, e.g. finding surfaces for multipliers for radio tubes and working out how to use phosphorous for television tubes. In 1938, after three years at RCA, Piore was hired as engineer in charge in the TV laboratory at CBS run by Peter Goldmark, inventor of the 33-rpm record, and worked on the early development of color television.

The onset of the Second World War brought radical changes to the relationship between university research and the federal government. Laboratories which had previously beem manned by civil servants were now manned and managed by universities, and as a vocal advocate for fostering this relationship, Piore received a call from the Navy Department. Arriving in Washington in the spring of 1942, Piore was assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory and given charge of getting new devices to the fleets. His administrative skills led to a rapid rise through ranks, eventually resulting in his appointment as the first civilian to head the Office of Naval Research. The navy recognized his achievements by honoring him with its highest civilian medal, the Distinguished Civilian Award.

With the conclusion of the war, Piore, like many scientists, hoped that the monetary relationship that had been established between the Federal Government and primary research would continue, and as Chief Scientist of ONR, Piore was in a prime position to see that it happened. He left ONR in 1955 to pursue research in industry, and after a brief stay at AVCO, an airplane engine company, where he was responsible for key defense contracts, he was offered the position of director of research at IBM.

Piore's appointment was the first time in the history of IBM that the company went outside to find someone to head a department. In the post-war years, IBM recognized the need to bolster its research in order to make the transition from war to peace. Under Piore, the corporation moved away from a strict emphasis upon product development toward support for basic research on product technologies and promising areas of technology. The scientists under Piore's direction were given unusual latitude to pursue basic research, making IBM an attractive place of employment, and giving IBM the ability to hire newly issued Ph.Ds in extraordinary numbers. Piore also pioneered the technique of attracting university scientists into the ranks by encouraging universities to invite IBM scientists as visiting professors or lecturers. Moreover, he created the IBM Fellowship program that allowed top researchers to engage in their personal interests for a given period of time. Piore's goal was to keep the lines of communications between industry and academia open.

Piore's foresight helped establish IBM as a technological leader in several additional ways, most notably by moving IBM away from the use of vacuum tubes, which required a great deal of power, to transistors and later semiconductors in computers. Other innovative projects did not pan out quite as well: the attempt to create a computer centered on cryotrons (a kind of super conducting wire) floundered due to technical difficulties, as did another to use microwaves instead of electrical current as the basis for a computer.

Promoted to vice president in 1960, Piore became a director in 1962, a group executive in 1963, and finally Chief Scientist in 1965. He was also a member of the board of directors and a member of the advisory committee to the board, a position he held after he officially retired from IBM in 1971. Piore contributed in many other areas of science and industry. He was a member of the National Science Board, the President's Science Advisory Committee and the Naval Research Advisory Committee. Other memberships included the New York State Science and Technology Foundation and the board of Science research Associates, inc. He was a trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, chairman of the Committee on Scientific Policy of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a trustee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hall of Science of the City of New York, and a member of the Board of Directors of Resources for the Future. He was elected for membership to various academic and scientific societies including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Aside from his professional achievements, Piore was a devoted family man. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin he met fellow student Nora Kahn, who later became a successful economist. The two were married on 26 August 1931, and had three children, Michael, Margot and Jane, all of whom went on to excel in some aspect of the field of science. After a long illness Piore died on 9 May 2000 at the age of 91.

From the guide to the Emanuel Ruben Piore Papers, Circa 1918-1986, (American Philosophical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Piore, Emanuel Ruben, 1908-2000. Emanuel Ruben Piore papers, circa 1918-1986. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Claude Elwood Shannon Papers, 1932-1995, (bulk 1938-1989) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn International Business Machines Corporation. Technical History Project. Oral histories, 1980-1991. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1969 : New York, N.Y.). The character of federally supported research in universities [sound recording] : a panel discussion, 1969 September 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Weber, J. (Joseph), 1919-2000. Oral history interview with Joseph Weber, 1983 April 8. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1960 : Harriman, N.Y.). Science and engineering in a free society [sound recording] : A panel discussion presenting three points of view, 1960 September 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Lazarus, David, 1921-. Oral history interview with David Lazarus, 1981 December 4. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Emanuel Ruben Piore Papers, Circa 1918-1986 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf American Institute of Physics. Corporate Associates. Annual Meeting (1962 : Harriman, N.Y.). Sessions from 5th annual meeting of Corporate Associates [sound recording] / 1962 September. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Piore, Emanuel Ruben, 1908-2000. Development of science policy since World War II [sound recording] / 1976. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Bullard, Edward Crisp, Sir, 1907-1980. The effectiveness of scientific advice to government [sound recording] : a lecture series at the University of California, Santa Barbara / 1976. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Records of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 1830 - 1994. Moving Images Documenting Scientific Tests, Research and Experiments. 1937 - 1987. New building dedication
referencedIn Shannon, Claude Elwood, 1916-2001. Claude Elwood Shannon papers, 1932-1995 (bulk 1938-1989). Library of Congress
creatorOf Piore, Emanuel Ruben, 1908-2000. Oral history interview with Emanuel Ruben Piore, 1977 March 7. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
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associatedWith Wheaton, Bruce R., person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Soviet Union
United States
United States
Subject
Space sciences
Science and state
Technology and state--United States
Research--United States
Federal aid to research--United States
Science and state--United States
Physicists--United States
Physics
Computers--Technological innovations
Research, Industrial
Science and technology
Radar--Research
World War, 1939-1945--War work
Federal aid to research
Physics--Study and teaching
Science--Government policy
Research--Technological innovations
Occupation
Physicists
Function

Person

Birth 1908-07-19

Death 2000-05-09

English

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