Robert H. Rines, 1922-2009

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Monday, November 2, 2009 (All day)

Robert H. Rines, teacher at MIT of patent law and principles of intellectual property and inventions and founder of the Academy of Applied Science (1963) and the Franklin Pierce Law Center (1973)died Nov. 1, 2009 in Boston. He was an accomplished international patent attorney, professor of law, prolific inventor, and musical composer. In the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, he was noted for his creation and teaching of 6.901/6.931 Inventions and Patents/Development of Inventions and Creative Ideas. (Read the EECS spotlight on his retirement in May, 2008).

Rines earned a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he developed his first contributions to the technology of high-resolution image-scanning radar. After serving as a Signal Corps radar officer in World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters, during the time when his microwave high-resolution radar inventions were secretly being developed, Rines went on to receive a law degree from Georgetown University while serving as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office.

Holding over 80 patents, Rines' inventions were also basic to solid state Loran boat and air navigation and to high-definition sonar scanning used in submarine detection, and the successful location of the Titanic and the Bismarc. They are used in new medical instrumentation that allows for noninvasive ultrasound imaging of internal organs. Rines has also adapted the same technology to perform scientific sonar searches for the Loch Ness "Monster" in Scotland from which he has attained images that appear to show a large flipper and body, some of the most noteworthy photographs ever taken of the monster. "The Beast of Loch Ness," a documentary of his Loch Ness expeditions was produced by NOVA in 1997. His patents are credited by the U.S. Army Signal Corps as the basis for nearly all the high-definition image-scanning radar used to provide early warning, weapons fire control and some artillery and missile detection radars used during the Persian Gulf War.

As a practicing attorney, Rines represented scores of inventors to secure legal protection for their innovations and he commercialized technology through business formation and licensing in the US and throughout the world. As entrepreneur and founder of several buisinesses,including several based on his own inventions, he also became a spokesman for independent inventors nationwide.

Rines served on the Technical Advisory Board of the US Department of Commerce and also helped establish an invention-encouraging patent system in mainland China, and earlier in Taiwan, where he completed a Ph.D. thesis at Chiao Tung University in 1972. Rines is founder and president of the Academy of Applied Science, a nonprofit organization that conducts the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program sponsored by the US Army, Navy and Air Force to encourage and reward high school scientific research, as well as the New Hampshire Young Inventors Program for primary schools.

Rines wrote music for more than 10 Broadway and off-Broadway shows, including collaborating in the Emmy-winning television and then later Broadway production Hizzoner - the Mayor. He also produced a ballet, Life at MIT, which was based on a musical suite he created at the tender age of 18. A workshop performance of the ballet debuted in May 1999 at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

In 1994 Rines was honored with induction into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame in recognition of his high-resolution image-scanning radar and sonar inventions, and later that year he was inducted into the U.S. Army Signal Corps Wall of Fame. In 1995, the Robert H. Rines Building was dedicated at the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and in 1997, MIT dedicated a distance-learning center in his name.

A Memorial Service will be held Saturday for Robert H. Rines, November 7, 2009, at 4p.m. in the Palm Garden Room of the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, 296 State Street, Boston, MA 02109.

Read more:

New York Times, Nov. 7, 2009 obituary: "Robert Rines, Inventor and Monster Hunter, Dies at 87."