Robin P. Giffard

Robin P. Giffard – Innovator and Architect of Atomic Frequency Standards 1941-2001

The time and frequency control community lost one of its most innovative leaders on Sunday, May 6, 2001, when Robin Giffard died while hiking in the Palo Alto, California area.

Dr. Giffard was born on February 6th, 1941, in Shrewsbury, U.K. He received a B.A. Physics (1st Class Honors), M.A. Physics, and D-Phil, all from the University of Oxford. His doctoral work was done at the Carendon Laboratory Oxford University and addressed measurement problems in the study of nuclear magnetism at low temperatures.

Following his work at Oxford, Robin also held positions at UC San Diego, Clarendon Laboratories Oxford, and Stanford University.

During this period his work included studies on cryogenic gravitational wave detectors, noise thermometry at ultra-low temperatures, and SQUID-Magnetometers.

In 1980 Robin joined the technical staff at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories (now Agilent Laboratories). At the time of his death, Robin was the Department Scientist for the Precision Instrumentation Laboratory. His specialties included: low noise electronics, atomic frequency standards, time-transfer using GPS, high-stability oscillators, digital filtering, and measurement techniques.

While at Agilent, Robin was heavily involved in the development and design of the Mercury Ion standard, and was one of the principal architects and designers of the Agilent 5071A Primary Frequency Standard. In recent years, his work involved development of time-transfer techniques that are effective over wide areas using GPS SPS. Working with other scientists at NIST and USNO, Robin was the principal investigator of the limitations, including ionospheric effects, on the ability to achieve wide-area time synchronization over continental distances.

For his work on atomic frequency standards, Robin shared the AIP Industrial Physics Award with his colleagues Dr. Len Cutler, and Dr. Curt Flory. He was also the co-winner of 3 IR&D 100 awards. He was the inventor or co-inventor on 6 US patents. Robin authored or co-authored over 55 technical papers and review articles.

Robin was active in both the IEEE and ION as a frequent contributor to technical symposia in both organizations. Robin was also a member of the Technical Program Committee of the IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium.

Robin is survived by his wife Rona, two children, a brother and a sister.

Those who worked with Robin will remember him as a quiet, gentle man with a dry British sense of humor, and outstanding technical brilliance.