Jerry Merryman Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know

A Texas Instruments calculator

Joe Haupt from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)] Merryman invented the Texas Instruments calculator

JERRY Merryman, inventor pocket electronic calculator, has died aged 86.

 

Merryman is best known for being one of the trio that invented the pocket calculator during his time spent working at Texas Instruments in Dallas.

Although his death was announced early Wednesday, Merryman died on February 27 at a Dallas hospital from complications of heart and kidney failure, according  to his stepdaughter, Kim Ikovic.

Jerry Merryman left) with fellow inventor Bob Biard

Thomas Okon / Creative CommonsJerry Merryman left) with fellow inventor Bob Biard

Ms Ikovic said that her step-father was hospitalized in December for complications he experienced during surgery to install a pacemaker.

Here’s what you need to know about Jerry Merryman

1.  Friends Described Merryman as ‘Brilliant’

After the news of his death broke, former colleague and friend Vernon Porter paid a glowing tribute to the ‘brilliant’ inventor.

“I have a PhD in material science and I’ve known hundreds of scientists, professors, Nobel prize-winners and so on,” he said.

“Jerry Merryman was the most brilliant man that I’ve ever met. Period. Absolutely, outstandingly brilliant.

“He had an incredible memory and he had an ability to pull up formulas, information, on almost any subject.”

2. Despite This, He Came from Humble Beginnings

Merryman was born on June 17, 1932, grew up in Hearne in Central Texas. At the age of 11, he began to earn some pocket money by fixing radios in his hometown.
“He’d scrape together a few cents to go to the movies in the afternoons and evenings and the police would come get him out … because their radios would break and he had to fix them,” said Merryman’s wife, Phyllis Merryman.
He later dropped out of college Texas A&M University and pursued numerous jobs before eventually joining Texas Instruments in 1963.

3.  His Biggest Win Came at Texas Instruments

Merryman is one of the three-person team that created the pocket calculator. The group was led by Merryman’s colleague Jack Kilby and also included colleague James Van Tassel.

Speaking about Merryman’s work on the calculator, his former colleague Ed Millis, said, “Jerry did the circuit design on this thing in three days, and if he was ever around, he’d lean over and say, ‘and nights.'”

Speaking about his own work, Merryman told NPR:  “It was late 1965 and Jack Kilby, my boss, presented the idea of a calculator. He called some people in his office. He says, we’d like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand.”

Merryman added, “Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution.”

Their prototype is still on display at the at the Smithsonian Institution to this very day.

Jerry Merryman retired from TI in January 1994, the company said.

4.  Despite His Success he Stayed Humble Throughout His Life

Friends and family members recall Merryman as a humble inventor despite his huge success.

“He wouldn’t ever boast or brag about himself, not ever,” said his daughter Melissa Merryman.

“He always said that he didn’t care anything about being famous, if his friends thought he did a good job, he was happy,” Phyllis Merryman said.

5. Friends And Family Remember His Other Creations

His friends and family say he was always creating something. His daughter Melissa remembers making his own tuning fork for their piano.

She said he asked him how he made it out of that “hunk of metal” and he told her: “It was easy, I just took away all the parts that were not an F sharp.”

Merryman was also a keen stargazer.

Friend and former colleague Gaynel Lockhart remembers a telescope in concrete at Merryman’s home with a motor attached that would allow it to follow a planet throughout the night.

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