In Memoriam: Simon Ramo, 103

The pioneering aerospace engineer and co-founder of TRW was appointed USC Presidential Chair and professor of electrical engineering in 2008


Simon “Si” Ramo, a USC professor and former chief scientist and technical director of the U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile program, died on June 27. He was 103.

An engineer and business leader, Ramo co-founded and was the “R” in TRW Inc., the Redondo Beach, California-based aerospace firm that developed intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch nuclear warheads over thousands of miles, the Pioneer 1 spacecraft and engines for the Apollo moon-landing missions. He joined the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in 2008 as the Presidential Chair and professor of electrical engineering.

“Simon Ramo was a Renaissance man, achieving eminence as a scientist, engineer, author and philanthropist during his life,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “In addition to his many personal accomplishments, he was also a devoted mentor to younger generations and a generous benefactor to USC. He will be greatly missed by the Trojan family.”

Ramo has received dozens of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Science. His name appears on more than 40 patents. In 2013, at age 100, he received Patent #8606170B2 for a computer-based learning invention — becoming the oldest person ever to receive a patent.

As a successful high-tech entrepreneur, Ramo founded several successful high-tech companies, including TRW (Thompson Ramo Wooldridge), which were later acquired by General Electric, General Motors, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and Honeywell.

Ramo was a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s first learned society, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1734.

— Lynn Lipinski