Robert C. Smythe – industry leader, researcher, IEEE Fellow and Cady Award winner 1929 – 2004
The Quartz Crystal Industry lost one of its leaders and mentors with the death of Robert Chastain Smythe, on April 13, 2004.
He was actively involved in both Industry and Academia for over 40 years. In 1991 he was presented the W. G. Cady Award, “For contributions to the development of single and dual mode quartz resonators for filter applications.” He was made a Fellow of the IEEE (UFFC), in 1997.
Bob Smythe was born on August 28, 1929, in Orlando, Florida, where he lived for almost his entire life. He received a BA degree in 1952 and a BSEE degree in 1953, both from Rice University. After working for Hazeltine Corporation for a short time, he joined the U.S. Army, where he served for two years, as an Instructor, fire control radar.
Upon leaving the Army in 1956, he resumed his education at the University of Florida, where he received an MSEE degree in 1957. In 1956 he joined Systems, Inc., the predecessor of Piezo Technology Inc., (PTI).
He was one of the founders of PTI, in Orlando, Florida, in 1965.
Bob Smythe’s long career at PTI was characterized by his prolific and significant contributions to the advancement of the theoretical and practical aspects of frequency control devices. He was the author of over 60 papers on resonators and resonator theory. He was also co-author of a textbook on piezoelectric devices and filters and held several patents. He had many other ideas worthy of patent recognition and was unstinting in his willingness to share his knowledge with, and offer advice to anyone working in the field of frequency control. Colleagues in the industry considered him a generous, accessible and rare repository of wisdom and knowledge.
Bob’s generosity was reflected in his continuing involvement at Rice University, where he was an active alumnus and for which institution he had a great affection. He also contributed his time to serve the frequency control profession through his many years of service on the program committee of the IEEE Frequency Control Symposium, and on IEEE standards committees.
His first PTI assignment was to establish the design of VHF coupled mode crystal filters – devices that are used at the front end of a radio receiver to protect against intermodulation distortion and cross talk. Several of his designs from that time are still in production at PTI.
During the hectic early years of growing his young company, he showed his commitment to gaining understanding in his chosen field by completing most of the course work for a doctorate in 1964-1966 at the University of Florida.
He directed a team that improved the producibility of coupled mode quartz resonators to the level where they became practical and efficient building blocks in the realization of complex filters. He was involved in all activities, from writing software for the design of coupled mode resonators, to designing production equipment necessary to produce the parts in high volume. Using the resulting technology, the production of coupled mode resonators increased to over 30,000 units per day.
Particularly significant advances were made in the computerized test and measurement of resonators and filters using network analyzers. Later Bob moved on to study the fundamental properties of crystal resonators. He had a particular interest in the measurement, characterization and causes of intermodulation distortion, drive level sensitivity, phase noise and acceleration-sensitivity.
He worked tirelessly to expand the range and capabilities of the company’s products, from highly stable doubly rotated quartz crystal standards to high frequency fundamental mode resonators and filters. Most recently, until his unfortunate illness, he was working on the measurement and characterization of the fundamental properties of the LGx family of piezoelectric materials.
Bob will be missed by his colleagues at PTI and his friends across the world, particularly those from our industry.