Remembering Gabriel Lorimer “Lory” Miller

The IEEE Life Fellow died on 25 February at the age of 89

21 March 2017

This tribute was written by Miller’s wife, Natalie Ross Miller.

Gabriel Lorimer “Lory” Miller died peacefully at home in Eastham, Mass., on February 25, surrounded by his family. He was 89, and had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for many years.

Lory was born in New York City to British parents and grew up in London. His father, actor Hugh Miller, taught at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was a voice coach, and acted in the film Lawrence of Arabia. Lory’s mother, Olga Katzin, wrote satirical verses for New Statesman magazine under the pseudonym Sagittarius.

Lory received a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s degree in mathematics, and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, all from the University of London. In 1957 he arrived in the United States with no job and US $50 in his pocket. Within three days he landed a job at Brookhaven National Laboratory, on Long Island. It was there that he gravitated toward sensing, instrumentation, and measurement—which allowed him to work on an extraordinary variety of projects throughout his career.

In 1963 he left Brookhaven to join Bell Labs, in Murray Hill, N.J. For the next 33 years he made important contributions to spacecraft experiments—notably on the Telstar One communications satellite, particle accelerators, charge-coupled devices, partial fraznoid oscillation, semiconductor instrumentation, and electromagnetic actuators. Throughout his career, Lory tried repeatedly to get the made-up word fraznoid into his published technical papers, but it was always caught and deleted by editors. Perhaps just this once the editors will let it slip by.

He was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1977 “for contributions to nuclear instrumentation and its innovation extension to measurements in other scientific fields.” Lory was also a Fellow of the American Institute of Physics and a proud member of the Bohmische Physical Society. He received the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984 and the IR-100 Award for applied design after he retired from Bell.

He was a visiting professor at Aarhus University’s Institute of Physics, in Denmark, and at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J. Lory authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers and held more than 40 patents. When he retired from Bell Labs, he was head of its Robotics Department (after initially refusing the promotion because he preferred to continue doing research in the lab). He continued to work after retiring, consulting for Applied Materials of Santa Clara, Calif., and starting his own company for technical design, Translucent, in Eastham.

Lory was a loving husband and father, and formidable at table tennis and chess. As his children will attest, he cooked great meals and made up hilarious bedtime stories. His clear intellect and capability for analytical thinking, which he expressed every night around the dinner table in lively conversation, was deeply influential on his children. He stressed the value of logic, evidence, getting the numbers right, and order-of-magnitude estimation—skills which his children practice and cherish to this day.

He was gregarious, witty, and brilliant. Lory was beloved by countless colleagues and friends, and well known for his infectious laugh and his jokes, a nonstop outpouring of puns that he felt should be bequeathed to the nation as a national treasure.

Lory is survived by me, his wife of 54 years; daughter-in-law Giedre Miller and her daughters, Fia and Ada, of Princeton, N.J.; son Jonathan and his wife, Carissa, of Washington, D.C.; and daughter Kate Miller, her husband, Lawrence Goodman, and their sons, Izzy and Caleb, of Providence, R.I. Our son Matthew predeceased him in 2010.

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