E. R. Piore

International Business Machines Corporation

July 19, 1908 - May 9, 2000

Scientific Discipline: Engineering Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1963)

E. R. Piore was one of the major architects behind the structure of American scientific research following World War II.  He pushed for more collaboration between industries, universities, and the government and was a strong advocate of basic researching in both academic and industrial settings.  After World War II, Piore became the first citizen to head the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and he constructed influential research programs that established basic principles of administration for government-supported research.  His work at the ONR caught the attention of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), and in 1956, they hired Piore to be their first director of research.  This was the first time in history that IBM hired outside of the company instead of promoting from within.  It was at IBM that Piore made his largest impact on scientific research: he promoted research without any type of constraints.  The freedom of independent and undisturbed study made IBM’s Research Department one of the most appealing employment opportunities for researchers all over the world.  This influx of researchers led to IBM’s development of a new generation of digital computers.

Piore went to the University of Wisconsin, earning his B.A. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in 1935.  From 1935 to 1938, he worked as a physicist for the Radio Corporation of America.  Over the next four years, he was the engineer in charge of the television laboratory for CBS.  Once World War II broke out, Piore joined the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ships as a senior physicist.  He joined the ONR in 1946 as the head of the electronics branch.  He held increasingly responsible positions at ONR, serving as director of the physical sciences division from 1947 to 1948, deputy for natural sciences from 1949 to 1951, and chief scientist from 1951 to 1955.  Before joining IBM in 1956, Piore worked as vice president and director of research for the Avco Corporation.  Similarly to ONR, he was continually promoted to higher positions at IBM; he was elected vice president in 1960, group executive in 1963, and chief scientist in 1965.  Piore served as a member of IBM’s board of directors from 1962 until 1973 when he became a member of IBM’s advisory board.  He was a former member of the National Science Board and the President’s Science Advisory Committee.  Piore was also a member of the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Engineering and was a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He received the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1955, the Industrial Research Institute Medal in 1967, and the Kaplun International Prize for Technology in 1975.

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