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2003 Co-recipient of the Charles Stark Draper Prize Is Remembered, 1912 - 2003
Dr. Ivan A. Getting, president emeritus of The Aerospace Corporation, provided the leadership and tenacity of purpose that encouraged the support needed to see that the creation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) succeeded. Today, GPS is utilized in many worldwide applications, such as national defense, air traffic control, mechanized farming, search and rescue, and tracking environmental change.
Ivan A. Getting was born in 1912 and has led an illustrious career marked with many well-known milestones in the advancement of technology. As a Junior Fellow at Harvard University, for example, he developed the first high-speed flip-flop circuit, a fundamental component of the original digital computers developed in the 1940s.
In 1940, Dr. Getting joined the Radiation Laboratory at MIT as head of Division 8, Army and Fire Control Radar, the group responsible for the development of virtually all Army ground radars used during World War II. Their accomplishments included the SCR-584 auto-tracking radar, which was of major importance in saving London from destruction by the V-1.
From 1950 to 1951, Dr. Getting served as assistant for development planning of the U.S. Air Force; and from 1951 to 1960, as vice president for research and engineering at Raytheon. During his tenure, Raytheon became the first company to produce transistors commercially, and he was responsible for the development of the Sparrow III and Hawk missile systems.
In 1960, Dr. Getting became the founding president of The Aerospace Corporation, which made major contributions to ballistic missile defense and NASA’s Mercury and Gemini space programs, and whose research laboratories contributed to radio astronomy, laser isotope separation, and high-power chemical lasers.
Over many decades, Dr. Getting’s constant work on the design of GPS, on its operational value, and on planning, negotiation, and reaching agreements with all the system’s stakeholders was critical to its becoming a reality.
Dr. Getting has received numerous prestigious honors and awards, including the President’s Medal of Merit, Air Force Exceptional Service Award, the Kitty Hawk Award, and the John Fritz Medal. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Dr. Ivan A. Getting received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an Edison Scholar in 1933. He was a Graduate Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, and he was awarded a Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1935.