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Joseph Engelberger
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Entrepreneur
    (July 26, 1925-December 1, 2015)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Engineer and entrepreneur
    Licensed a patent for a robotic arm from inventor George Devol
    Marketed it as the first industrial robot, Unimate
    First Unimate installed at the General Motors Inland Fisher Guide Plant in New Jersey (1961)
    Later founded Transitions Research Corporation (1984) and marketed the HelpMate, a robotic hospital courier
    Wrote ‘Robotics in Practice’ (1980) and ‘Robotics in Service’ (1989)
    Known as ‘the father of robotics’
    When the first Unimate was displayed at a trade show, its hydraulic fluid leaked ‘like a sieve.’
    He sold his first Unimates at a $35,000 loss.
    His unwillingness to switch from hydraulics to electric motors caused sales to drop off in the 1980s, eventually resulting in the sale of his company to Westinghouse.
    When the robots revolt and take over, you’ll know whose name to curse just before their metal arms crush you.
    He was inspired by Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi stories about robots.
    As Unimate arms became increasingly ubiquitous in the automotive industry, manufacturing costs dropped rapidly, enabling the company to make a profit.
    He appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with a Unimate that demonstrated its dexterity by pouring a beer, sinking a golf putt and conducting the band (1966).
    He consulted with NASA on the use of robots in space exploration.
    The Robotics Industries Association named an annual award for ‘persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics ‘ after him.

Credit: C. Fishel


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