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Ivan A. Getting

By Anahad O’Connor


october 21, 2003

Ivan A. Getting ’33, a major force behind the development of the Global Positioning System, the network of satellites that pinpoint locations on Earth within a range of feet, died on Oct. 11 at his home in Coronado, Calif. He was 91.

Getting conceived the satellite technology in the 1960’s while president of Aerospace Corporation, a military research and development company based in El Segundo, Calif.

The system now is a constellation of 24 satellites that uses transmitters and atomic clocks to calculate locations around the world. First known as Navstar GPS, it was intended to control military aircraft and missiles during the cold war.

Gradually, the technology became a household name with a broad range of commercial and everyday applications.

Born in New York City, Getting earned his undergraduate degree from the MIT and his PhD from Oxford.

He returned to MIT in the 1940’s to head its well-known radiation laboratory, where he worked on the Army’s antiaircraft radar systems that helped save England from German “flying bombs” during World War II.

He taught electrical engineering at MIT and later oversaw the development of the Sparrow III and Hawk missile systems at the Raytheon Company, a defense contractor.

In 1960, Getting became founding president of Aerospace. He held the position until he retired, in 1977. In that time, he worked with the Mercury and Gemini missions for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

According to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times, he is survived by his wife, Helen; two sons, Ivan, of Boulder, Colo., and Peter, of Iowa City, Iowa; a daughter, Nancy G. Secker of Green Bay, Wis.; and several grandchildren.