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David Harry Ransom Jr. ’57

A picture of David Ransom Jr

David Harry Ransom Jr. ’57, November 5, 2006, in Pacific Palisades, California, from congestive heart failure. David transferred to Reed from the University of Wisconsin, where he had enrolled on a Ford Foundation scholarship at 16. He received a BA from Reed in physics and immediately became involved in America’s early space program, designing and building communications equipment for data transmission for the Ranger, Mariner, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. He later designed and built computerized telephone traffic-monitoring equipment for telephone companies in the U.S. and Latin America, and then developed computerized security systems for the aerospace industry. He retired in 1983. Because of his ongoing interest in the space program and the Space Shuttle in particular, he wrote—as shareware—a satellite-tracking program that became widely used by astronomers, satellite trackers, and ham radio enthusiasts around the world. It was also used in school science classes as part of NASA’s SAREX program, which enabled students to talk with the shuttle crew via short-wave radio during certain missions. In 1991, he was awarded a certificate of recognition from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a time-keeping program and shareware, used by JPL in its Multi-Mission Control Center as a mission countdown clock and event timer. David's additional was interested in travel, model trains, and music. In 1994, he wrote to Reed, “I wished only to learn the fundamentals in my chosen field (physics generally and electronics specifically) so that I might rush out into the ‘real world’ and ply my trade, designing new and better mouse traps of an electronic variety. . . . Not every Reed graduate may feel about the college as I do, but in this age of dissent and complaint, it may be useful to know that there were a few of us in the ’50s who thought (and still think) it was a fine school, providing exactly what was required. I bear no scars of trauma that I know of, and would change nothing if given the chance.” Survivors include his wife, Vicki, who supplied the details of this memorial; his daughter and sister; and his brother, Roger Ransom ’59, and sister-in-law, Connie Flint Ransom ’59.

Appeared in Reed magazine: August 2007

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