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Edward L. Ginzton, co-founder of Varian Associates, dies at 82

In the lore of Silicon Valley, Edward Ginzton is not as well known as William Hewlett and David Packard, who started their electronics company in a Palo Alto garage. Nor is he as well known as William Shockley, who headed the group of Stanford scientists who were trying to commercialize the transistor. But perhaps he should be.

As a co-founder of Varian Associates and the dominant force behind its early growth and success, Ginzton played an important role in the Valley's early development and helped create the management style that lies at its foundation. On Aug. 13 he died at the Stanford Medical Center after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 82.

Ginzton was born in the Ukraine to a Russian mother and American father. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in San Francisco in 1929. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of California-Berkeley and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford, where he began teaching. While at Stanford he formed lifelong relationships with Russell and Sigurd Varian, William Hansen and others in the physics department who were doing pioneering work in the field of microwave technology.

At the beginning of World War II, Ginzton moved to New York with a Stanford team that had been hired by Sperry Gyroscope Co. to work on a powerful new kind of radio tube, the klystron, that had been invented by the Varians. There he worked on the klystron's use in radar, which played an important role in World War II. Subsequently, the klystron has been used in satellite communications, airplane and missile guidance systems, telephone and television transmission, and other important applications.

After the end of the war, Ginzton returned to Stanford, where he continued to work in the microwave field, including incorporation of klystron tubes in linear accelerators used to probe the basic structure of subatomic matter. In the 1950s he headed a team of Stanford physicists who designed a one billion electron volt particle accelerator that was housed in the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory. When it was completed, it was the most powerful machine of its type in the world. He also played an important role in obtaining federal funding for the 2-mile linear accelerator that forms the backbone of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and served as SLAC's director during the research and development phase of the project, known at that time as "Project M."

"We value Ed's many contributions to the development of high-power klystrons and accelerators," SLAC Director Burton Richter said in a memo announcing Ginzton's passing to members of the SLAC community. "He will be remembered as an important part of the Laboratory and of Silicon Valley."

In 1948, Ginzton joined with the Varian brothers to form Varian Associates. But he did not step down from his role at SLAC until 1961, when he become the company's chairman following the death of Russell Varian.

Varian helped define the management style that has come to characterize Silicon Valley. Its founders added "associates" to the name to convey the idea that the new company was a cooperative owned by the employees, and started with a provisional stock option agreement that made each employee a stockholder. It was an unusual arrangement at the time, but is now commonplace among Silicon Valley start-ups. The company gained a reputation for attracting top-flight researchers and providing them with an environment where they could create without restriction: an approach that produced hundreds of innovations and awards.

Under Ginzton's leadership the company concentrated on klystron research, nuclear magnetic resonance - the basic technology used by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - and the development of medical linear accelerators (linacs) for the treatment of cancer. Although unprofitable for a number of years, Varian's investment in medical linacs eventually bore fruit and the company became the world leader in the field with more than 3,500 systems now treating more than one million patients annually.

In addition to his academic, scientific and business achievements, Ginzton was an active civic leader. At the local level, he served as co-chair with David Packard of the Stanford Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition, which helped launch minority-owned small businesses, and worked on related education, health and housing issues. At the national level, he served as chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions that advised Congress on the feasibility of the Clean Air Act of 1970.

"Ed Ginzton was one of those rare individuals who become legends in their own time because they somehow manage to excel at virtually everything they attempt," said J. Tracy O'Rourke, Varian's current chairman and chief executive. "Ed was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which was his wonderful ability to enjoy life and those around him despite his failing health."

Ginzton was a resident of Los Altos Hills. He is survived by his wife, Artemas, and his children: Leonard of La Cañada; David of Sandpoint, Idaho; Nancy of Los Altos Hills; and Anne of Berkeley.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 11 a.m. at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center Auditorium. A selection of Ginzton's photographs will be on display starting at 10 a.m. The family asks that memorial contributions be sent to: The Parkinson's Institute, 1170 Morse Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089; The Sempervirens Fund, Drawer BE, Los Altos, CA 94023; or the Urban Coalition, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009.


By David F. Salisbury

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