Researchers form Scientific-Atlanta

One move to diversify the state economy followed a path that didn't sit well with Georgia Tech's administration — at least at first.

Glen P. Robinson Jr. was an electronics whiz who worked part-time in EES' Radar Branch while finishing his undergraduate degree in physics at Georgia Tech. After graduating in 1948, he moved up to full-time EES status.

"Several of us talked about forming a company to actually produce some of the products that might be developed at Georgia Tech," said Robinson. "But nobody wanted to do anything about it."

After about two years at EES, he decided to take a job in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to gain some experience working in nuclear physics while pursuing a master's degree at the University of Tennessee. One day in 1951, his former physics professor, James Boyd, by now the associate director of the EES, paid a visit.

"Jim came up to Oak Ridge and said, 'We're serious now about forming a company.' He wanted me to come back and be the general manager. He said it would cost me $100. No salary — only what I could make — but he'd give me a part-time job at the Experiment Station."

Robinson agreed on the spot, and with Boyd, EES Director Gerald Rosselot and four other EES staff — and their combined $700 in seed money — Scientific-Atlanta was launched in 1952.

The company started out by building antennas from designs worked out at Georgia Tech. Later, Scientific-Atlanta would become widely known for its pioneering development of satellite Earth stations and cable television equipment.

At the time, some felt that the involvement of EES employees in a private company constituted a conflict of interest. In addition, there were suspicions that Scientific-Atlanta was winning contracts that might otherwise have gone to the EES.

Today, Georgia Tech administrators point with pride to Scientific-Atlanta as one of the EES' greatest success stories.