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In Memoriam: Robert C. Dean Jr.

May 21, 2023   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Robert C. Dean Jr.

— 1928–2023 —

“Creativity Can Be Learned”

Professor and serial entrepreneur Robert Dean died on January 7, 2023. He was 94. Dean was founder or cofounder of 10 companies in a variety of fields, including Creare (contract research and development in the thermal/flow and medical sciences) and Hypertherm (world's largest manufacturer of plasma-arc metal-cutting equipment) in the Upper Valley.

Robert Dean Jr.

He was both a passionate engineer and a beloved teacher. "Professor Dean totally shaped my career with his energy, creativity, and enthusiasm," says Robert Prescott '64 Th'67. "He taught us that creativity—the sort that results in patented inventions—can be learned. He was inspiring at a personal level and his energy seemed boundless."

Dean earned his BS, SM, and ScD degrees in mechanical engineering at MIT, where he served as an assistant mechanical engineering professor in the gas turbine laboratory from 1951 to 1956. He then became head of advanced engineering at Ingersoll-Rand Co., leaving in 1960 to join the faculty at Thayer.

He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the National Academy of Inventors. In 1996, the US Small Business Administration gave Dean one of the first Tibbett's Pioneer Awards in recognition of his contributions to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. He earned the 1966 ASME Gold Medal and the NH High Technology Council's Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1998.

Other Dean startups included Creare Innovations (xerography and motion control), Verax (mammalian-cell culture systems for biopharmaceuticals production), Synosys (biotechnology instruments and process equipment), Synergy Research Corp. (motion-control, reprographics engineering, and bioengineering), Synergy Innovations (innovation and new venture creation), Simbex (injury-prevention and rehabilitation products), NanoComp Technologies (carbon nanotubes and products), and Synticos (abrasive slurry jet cutters). He is survived by his wife, Nancy.

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