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April 1, 1924|
March 4, 2004 (aged 79)|
Carnegie Institute of Technology|
Washington University in St. Louis|
|Doctoral advisor||Edward Mills Purcell|
George Pake (April 1, 1924 – March 4, 2004) was a physicist and research executive primarily known for helping found Xerox PARC. Pake earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Carnegie Institute of Technology and his doctorate in physics at Harvard University in 1948.
Pake was raised in Kent, Ohio; his father was an English instructor at Kent State University.:3 His mother taught in a one-room school house, and eventually taught in normal school. Though he never again lived in Kent after his childhood, Pake retained deep feeling for the town of Kent, and was pleased to be asked in later years to deliver the commencement address at Kent State.
He was greatly influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. When he enlisted to serve, he learned he had scoliosis, which kept Pake out of the U.S. Armed Forces. At that point he chose to serve his country by pursuing physics.
After four years as a physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Pake became the head of the physics department at age 28. He later went on to become provost of the university from 1962 to 1970 before leaving to serve as founding director of Xerox PARC.
PARC assembled a first-rate collection of research talent, especially in the area of computer science. During Pake's years running Xerox PARC, the research center invented the laser printer and pioneered the use of a computer "desktop" which functioned by clicking on "icons." This has since become the computer industry standard.
If the Xerox Corporation never chose to open a personal computer division, it was through no lack of advocacy by Pake. Nevertheless, the failure of that advocacy is well known in Silicon Valley circles. Pake left Xerox in 1986 to direct the nonprofit Institute for Research on Learning in Palo Alto. He remained director emeritus until the time of his death.
Late in life, Pake began writing two different books, both with the collaborator Andrew Szanton. One of Pake's books was a life memoir, the other a book of advice for those running research centers, "think tanks" or other small groups of highly intelligent and independent people, and trying to coax them to work collectively to achieve organizational goals. Pake's death, of heart failure on March 4, 2004 in Tucson, Arizona, interrupted both book projects.
In 1986, Pake was awarded the illustrious IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute for recognition of his leadership in the field of technology and innovation. Pake was also a recipient of the National Medal of Science in 1987 and continued to visit PARC long after his 1986 retirement from Xerox.
Since 1984, the American Physical Society has been awarding the George E. Pake Prize, endowed in 1983 by the Xerox Corporation, to recognize outstanding work by physicists combining original research accomplishments with leadership in the management of research or development in industry.
Pake married Marjorie Semon on May 31, 1947; they had four children: Warren, Bruce, Cathie and Steve.:20