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Memorial Tributes: Volume 6 (1993)

Chapter: C. Guy Suits

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Suggested Citation:"C. Guy Suits." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 224
Suggested Citation:"C. Guy Suits." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 225
Suggested Citation:"C. Guy Suits." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 226
Suggested Citation:"C. Guy Suits." National Academy of Engineering. 1993. Memorial Tributes: Volume 6. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2231.
Page 227

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C. GUY SUITS 1905-1991 BY WALTER L. ROBB A GIANT AMONG US has departed. How does one, in a few minutes, pay homage to a man's life, to the highlights of a loving husband and father, to an adventurer, leader, pioneer, in all his endeavors? For, yes, Chauncey Guy Suits lived a full, productive life. In fact, writers of do-it-yourself books might well pause to consider his story. He designed his own boomerangs and skis; largely furnished his home with handsome handmade repro- cluctions of antique furniture; rewove Oriental rugs; constructed his own customized leather camera cases; and designed, cut, and sewed dresses for Mrs. Suits. He also, at one time or another, was a self-taught professional clarinetist, a hiker, a hunter, a skier, and a yachtsman, a skin diver, a pilot, and a photographer extraordinaire. As Guy himself put it in a 1937 talk, "I have often heard people say that they would love to have a hobby, if they had the time. That is doubtless true in many cases, particularly with college students, but it is also true that it is not time that is lacking so much as the ability to make the best use of the available time. An active man can no more cease his activity at the point of a clock than he can stop breathing activity is a part of his constitutional equipment. And so a portion of his leisure time activity is diverted to music, or painting, or archaeology, or botany, or hiking and skiing- and the list is endless." 225

226 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES If Guy had pursued all of his hobbies with his customary enthusiasm, they might well have interfered with his work. That never happened, as evidenced in 1945 at the age of thirty-nine. Already a distinguished scientist, he became the youngest of ricer of GE and director of one of the world's foremost industrial laboratories. He had been a member of the GE Research Labo- ratory since 1930 and was widely known for his work in many phases of scientific research, especially high-temperature, high- pressure electric-arc discharges. His studies ultimately resulted in seventy-seven patents. During World War II, Guy devoted the major portion of his time to the direction of research under the auspices of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. As chief of Division 15 of the National Defense Research Committee, he headed the leading U.S. effort on radio and radar countermeasures. It was estimated that those countermeasures saved the U.S. Strategic Air Force some 450 planes and 4,500 casualties alone, effectively countering a $? billion Axis radar system. At the close of the war, Guy returned to GE and directed the extensive postwar expansion of the company's scientific re- search activities. This included the planning and construction of a completely new home for the research lab on a 600-acre site in Niskayuna, New York. Today, that facility, now forty years old, stands in clear testimony to that quality of design and construc- tion that Guy insisted upon. No other laboratory I have visited has stood the test of time so well, and we pledged to maintain the lab as the living testimonial to Dr. Suit's memory. As director of research for GE, Guy organized research teams that made hundreds of inventions, enriched scientific knowl- ec~ge, and yielded vast material benefits to mankind. Those innovations included the first Man-Made™ diamonds and the first commercial process for mass-producing them; Borazon~ cubic boron nitride, a synthetic material second in hardness only to diamond; the Multi-Vapor(8' lamp, still the leading high-effi- ciency light source; chemical research that led to Lexan(~' and Noryl(8' resins, two of the world's most famous engineering poly- mers; and the demonstration of electron tunneling—work that later won Ivar Giaever a share ofthe 1973 Nobel Prize for physics.

C. GUY SUITS 227 Most impressively, many young scientists Guy and his team brought into the lab are still the world's leading experts in their fields, even twenty-five years after his retirement. His succes- sors Art Bucche, Roland Schmitt, and myself were hired during his tenure, and we all owe Guy a huge debt of gratitude for his counsel and support. He loved his family and the Adirondacks, but he also loved GE and the people who made up the GE family. While it is only human for us to mourn the loss of a loyal and courageous friend, we are also filled with thanksgiving for having shared in even a part of Guy's full life. He made each day exciting, each conversation stimulating, and each minute and hour time well spent. May his love for life challenge us to look within ourselves to inspire us to even greater undertakings, knowing Guy would approve. Guy was without peer- such a gentleman; kind husband and father; devoted environmentalist and adventurer; and an honor- able, proud, and decent American. But Guy Suits didn't waste a lot of words explaining his philosophy of life. On the contrary, he lived his philosophy and led by example. His message to all of us was, "Live life to the fullest!" He showed us the way . . . oh, so well.

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This series presents biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Engineering.

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