Bernard M. “Barney” Oliver was HP’s director of research for 3 decades, from 1952 to 1981. His list of patents, engineering achievements, and science awards was bogglingly large, and included many of the most prestigious awards in these fields. He was also a stickler for the proper use of English; and for clear communication that could move people by answering the “why?” questions, even as it informed them by answering the “what and how?”. That talent was one of many things that set him apart from his peers.
His most lasting achievement is related to that talent. The 1971 Project Cyclops report [PDF format, 14.5 MB | Print version] laid out the basis for theories of intelligent life in the universe, and was instrumental in the creation of NASA’s famous SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project.
Time may tell us how many of SETI’s premises turn out to be true. Until those verdicts are rendered, Dr. Oliver’s work is offered as a fascinating read – and a gold standard for excellent written communication in the aerospace, engineering, and technical policy fields.