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Douglass and Dunaway Mortuary

500 East Imperial Avenue
El Segundo, CA 90245
(310) 640-9325
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Simon Ramo dies at 103; TRW co-founder shaped California aerospace - Los Angeles Times

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ramo, much of the nation's military and civil spacecraft development work remains centered in Southern California, notably along the coastline from El Segundo and Redondo Beach to Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach.As the consolidation of the defense industry in the 1990s led firms to take their manufacturing elsewhere, Ramo worked to keep the research laboratories and their engineering know-how in the region.But Ramo was best known for leading the development of the weapon that escalated the Cold War into a potentially apocalyptic struggle. It was a rocket that could deliver a nuclear warhead to a target 6,000 miles away in 30 minutes and destroy a city, undeterred by any defensive system.The former Soviet Union and the United States built so many of the missiles that at one point, scientists estimated that the world could be destroyed 10 times over. As a result, it fundamentally altered war planning and the worldview of two generations, who learned to live with Cold War brinkmanship and the deeply troubling concept known as “mutually assured destruction.” As long as there were enough nuclear missiles to destroy one another, it was considered irrational for one side to launch an attack, or at least that was the thinking behind it.Ramo was born in Salt Lake City on May 7, 1913, to Lithuanian immigrant parents who owned a clothing store. He was an aspiring concert volinist, until age 12, when he heard legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz and decided he would be better off pursuing a career in science.Ramo and Heifetz became friends years later and once played a duet together at a dinner party. “I could then confidently conclude that I had made the right decision,” Ramo wrote in his 1988 semi-autobiography, “The Business of Science.”With the focus on science, Ramo earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and physics from Caltech at age 23. In 1936, he began working for General Electric Co., where he helped develop the electron microscope. His work on military-related programs kept him out of World War II.After World War II, Ramo moved to Hughes Aircraft Co., then Howard Hughes' airplane workshop in Culver City, to launch a division devoted to military electronics.Ramo went to work for Hughes because he knew that one of the richest men in the world at the time was an absentee owner who rarely came around. When he did show up, Ramo recalled in a Los Angeles Times interview, Hughes would “toss off” detailed directions about what kind of seat covers to buy for company-owned Chevrolets.“He was a nut,” Ramo said.Ramo left Hughes in 1953 and formed what became the predecessor for TRW after the Defense Department grew wary about contracting sensitive military work to the eccentric Hughes. That same year, the Eisenhower administration bypassed big defense contractors and asked Ramo and his Caltech classmate Dean Everett Wooldridge, the “W” in TRW, to lead the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile.The enormous task of overseeing the development