Remembering William F. Schreiber 1925-2009

William F. Schreiber, Professor Emeritus in the EECS Department at MIT, died suddenly at his home in Cambridge, MA. on Monday September 21, 2009, at the age of 84.

Dr. Schreiber attended Columbia University, where he received the B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and in 1953, received the PhD in applied physics at Harvard University. Dr. Schreiber worked at Sylvania from 1947 to 1949 and at Technicolor Corporation in Hollywood, CA from 1953 to 1959. In 1969 with Melvin J. Fennell from The Associated Press and fellow MIT professors Samuel J. Mason, and Donald E. Troxel, Mr. Schreiber developed one of the first commercially successful optical character recognition (OCR) machines, which served as the basis for starting, in the same year, the company Electronic Character Recognition Machinery (ECRM).

William F. Schreiber, 1925-2009, former EECS faculty member and director of the Advanced Television Research program

William F. Schreiber, 1925-2009, former EECS faculty member and director of the Advanced Television Research program.

From l959 until his retirement in l990, he was a faculty member at MIT as Professor of Electrical Engineering and served as director of the Advanced Television Research program from 1983 until his retirement. He was visiting professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India, in 1964-66, at INRS-Telecommunications, Montreal, Quebec, in 1981-82 and 1991-93, and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, in 1990.

Dr. Schreiber’s major professional interest was image processing systems, including printing, facsimile, and television. This work encompassed theory and extensive practical applications, including the development of a number of successful commercial products that incorporated innovative image-processing technology developed under his direction. He worked in graphic arts, including color correction, color printing, and laser scanner and recorder design, in facsimile, and in television. The TV work included digital television and high-definition television.

For his contributions, Schreiber was awarded the Honors Award of the Technical Association for the Graphic Arts, the David Sarnoff Gold Medal from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, SMPTE, the Gold Medal of the International Society for Optical Engineering, and was a four-times recipient of the Journal Award of SMPTE. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Throughout the period when he was an active member of the MIT faculty, Dr. Schreiber maintained a consulting practice in his fields of expertise, and served as an expert witness in patent legislation. His numerous students at MIT, many now holding significant positions in engineering, revered him for his technical originality and especially for his patient helpfulness as a teacher.

Former EECS student, Dr. Susie Wee of Hewlett-Packard said, “I proudly carry the honor of being Professor Schreiber’s last Ph.D. student. He was as modern at the end of his career as he was at the beginning; even in retirement he still worked harder than any graduate student or professor I knew. He was an inventive, energetic, generous teacher with a twinkle in his eye, fighting for causes that make the world around him a better place.”

A commemorative service about Dr. Schreiber’s life was held Saturday, November 21 at 5pm at the MIT Faculty Club.

Read more in the Oct. 1, 2009 ECRM website article: “ECRM founder Dr. William F. Schreiber passes away at 84.”

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