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R & D in the 1970s

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 6:30am
R&D Editors

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Some 600 researchers attended the 1977 IR 100 Awards banquet in Chicago.
As integrated circuits and environmentally friendly technologies emerged, R&D 100 Award winners set the pace.

Like most decades, the 1970s were a period of change. The United States witnessed the Watergate scandal and hearings, the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and a military withdrawal from Vietnam. Economic times were tough. Oil and energy crises triggered new approaches to automobile use.

While cultural trends, like disco, were (thankfully) short lived, emerging technologies made profound marks on science, technology, medicine, society, and even entertainment. The 1970s saw the development of the first microprocessor, pocket calculators, video cassette recorders, and early personal computers.

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Figure 1: IR/R&D 100 Award Winners (1970 to 1979) by product category. Source: R&D 100 Archive.

The IR/R&D 100 Award winners mirrored technology innovations in these areas, with advances in information technologies, analytical instruments, and materials. The decade also saw growth in mechanical systems, process sciences, and environmental technologies (Figure 1).

Notable technologies that were awarded IR/R&D 100 Awards included the amino acid sequencer (1970), solid-state lithium batteries (1971), the automated teller machine (1973), the compact floppy diskette (1973), a thermally stable automotive exhaust catalysis (1973), the color copier (1974), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), and high-speed CMOS RAM (1978). A complete list of winning technologies can be found on www.rdmag.com/rd100awards.

Table 1: IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (1970 to 1979)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
General Electric Co. 73
NASA 32
Varian Associates 27
Carborundum Co. 17
Dow Chemical Co. 17
National Bureau of Standards 17
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 15
3M Co. 14
DuPont Co. 14
Union Carbide Corp. 14
Westinghouse Electric Corp. 14
Argonne National Laboratory 13
Honeywell Inc. 13
Hewlett-Packard Co. 11
Hitachi Ltd. 11
Gould Inc. 9
Battelle Memorial Institute 8
Southwest Research Institute 8
Stauffer Chemical Co. 8
Air Force Materials Laboratory 7
Aluminum Co. of America 7
Bendix Corp. 7
Norton Co. 7
Whittaker Corp. 7
American Optical Corp. 6
Beckman Instruments Inc. 6
Bell Telephone Laboratories 6
Hughes Aircraft Co. 6
IBM Corp. 6
Perkin-Elmer Corp. 6
PPG Industries Inc. 6
U.S. Air Force 6
Bausch & Lomb Inc. 5
Extranuclear Laboratories Inc. 5
Johns Hopkins University 5
Keithley Instruments Inc. 5
Kevex Corp. 5
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5
Moleculon Research Corp. 5
Rockwell International Corp. 5
Stanford Research Institute 5
Texas Instruments Inc. 5
Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co. 5
Wright-Patterson AFB 5
Companies with five or more wins. Source: R&D 100 Archive

 

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Figure 2: IR/R&D 100 Award Winners (1970 to 1979) by organization type. Source: R&D 100 Archive.

The 1970s, by the numbers
As the popularity of the IR/R&D 100 Awards grew, so did the diversity of the entries. Nearly 1,150 companies, universities, government research laboratories, and nonprofit research organizations were awarded IR/R&D Awards as primary or co-developers. While industry continued to dominate the awards (Figure 2), government-funded research organizations entered as strong contenders in the competition.

As NASA shifted its focus from the Apollo program to Skylab and the Space Shuttle, the agency garnered 32 awards for products as diverse as a personal alarm system, a nickel-based alloy, a ball bearing design, and a radar system. U.S. Department of Energy laboratories emerged as players; Oak Ridge National Laboratory (15 wins) and Argonne National Laboratory (13 wins) were top performers in the decade (Table 1).

 

Table 2: Top 20 IR/R&D 100 Award Winners by Organization (1963 to 1979)
Organization Wins (All divisions or business units)
General Electric Co. 128
Varian Associates 48
Westinghouse Electric Corp. 46
NASA 37
Union Carbide Corp. 36
RCA 34
Honeywell Inc. 27
Carborundum Co. 25
Dow Chemical Co. 24
Hewlett-Packard Co. 24
Bendix Corp. 23
3M Co. 18
DuPont Co. 18
Argonne National Laboratory 18
National Bureau of Standards 17
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 16
Beckman Instruments Inc. 16
Perkin-Elmer Corp. 16
Hitachi Ltd. 11
Norton Co. 11
Source: R&D 100 Archive

 

As the Awards grew in popularity, a friendly competition developed between participants. Table 2 lists the top 20 IR/R&D 100 winners from the inception of the awards program through 1979. This list will be updated in upcoming issues, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the program in September 2012.

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