Douglas Ross SM '54 passed away on Jan. 31 after a fall at the Brookhaven at Lexington care community, according to The Boston Globe. He was 77.
A lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Ross was well-known for having invented the Automatically Programmed Tool computer language while simultaneously learning and teaching at MIT, according to the Globe. The Globe reported that he was also the founder of a software engineering company, SofTech. He also coined the term "computer-aided design," according to the Globe.
Ross grew up in Canandaigua, N.Y., although he was born in China. He went to Oberlin College, where he married Patricia Mott. After graduation, he came to MIT, according to the Globe.
In 1954, he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering and worked on the Whirlwind computer, according to the Globe. That computer was invented by the MIT Digital Computer Laboratory and, according to an article in the April 22, 1964 issue of The Tech, "was intended for applications to science, engineering, and experiments for the processing of air defense information."
In a 1984 interview with the Charles Babbage Institute that was quoted in the Globe, Ross said, "I used to say I was a pure mathematician by training, but an engineer by heart because I discovered what engineering was: Get in there and make it work and understand as much as you can; do things systematically, but make it work."
Ross is survived by his wife, three daughters, two sisters, two granddaughters, and a grandson, according to the Globe.