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Home : Volume 23 : Fall 1996 :
Distinguished Service Award for David B. Wittry

David B. Wittry

David B. Wittry
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For more than 40 years, David B. Wittry has been improving the field of materials science as an educator, researcher and inventor. A native of Green Bay, Wittry graduated from UW-Madison in 1951 with a BS in applied math and mechanics. He earned his MS and PhD degrees in physics from the California Institute of Technology. Since 1959 he has been a faculty member of the University of Southern California, and is currently an emeritus professor in the departments of materials science and electrical engineering.

Throughout his career, Wittry has been involved with pioneering research on analytical microscopy techniques involving X-ray, ion and electron beams. Among his most significant contributions was the basic design of one of the most successful commercial electron probe microanalyzers, which he patented in 1963. Wittry also invented a dual cathode system for electron beam instruments, and a novel, rotating anode X-ray source for X-ray lithography. His pioneering work while on sabbatical at Cambridge University led to practical utilization of electron energy loss spectrometry for local microanalysis. Additionally, he developed a new type of diffractor for scanning X-ray monochromators that led to two patents and is considered one of the most significant advances in X-ray spectrometry.

Wittry's long-standing interest in inventions served him well as chairman of a committee that recommended patent policy adopted by USC. He subsequently chaired the USC Patents Committee for 25 years. Although most of Wittry's inventions have been for materials science instrumentation, he recently was awarded three patents on a rotary internal combustion engine. The "Wittry Engine" combines the efficiency of a diesel piston-type IC engine with the simplicity of a rotary engine.

Wittry and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Pasadena, Calif., and have five adult children.

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