Robotics Pioneer George C. Devol Passes Away

George C. Devol, the man who designed the first robotic arm and revolutionized the robotics industry died on August 1, 2011. He was 99 years old and passed away at his home in Wilton, Connecticut. He was considered the father of industrial robots. In May 2011 he was inducted to the National inventors Hall of Fame.

Phantom Doorman Automatic Door

Part of his citation from the National Inventors Hall of Fame states that George Devol’s patent for the first digitally operated programmable robotic arm represents the foundation of the modern robotics industry. Born on Feb. 20, 1912, in Louisville, Kentucky he left behind four children, five grandchildren and five great grand children.

His very first invention made in his early twenties was the automatic opening door which is now manufactured as the Phantom Doorman. He held around 40 patents including the one that led to the first industrial robot being developed. He came up with the prototype for the revolutionary mechanical arm that is used in automobile assembly line and other industries worldwide today.

He formed the first robotics company in the world in 1956 called Unimation Inc with his partner Joseph F. Engelberger. In 1960 the company sold its first robot to a General Motors factory in New Jersey. Its job was to lift hot pieces of metal from a die-casting machine and stack them. Other car manufacturers like Chrysler, Ford and Fiat soon saw the benefit of tireless industrial robots and an industry was born.

Mr. Devol said that new technology should be simple and practical. He once said that we should take refuge in the fact that very crude systems can accomplish an awful lot. Elegant capabilities are nice, but often unnecessary.


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