Photo of Bernard M. Oliver

Bernard M. Oliver

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For translating the most profound discoveries of physical and communication science into the electronic, radio, and computer systems which have improved our culture and enriched the lives of all Americans.

Bernard M. Oliver is best known for developing the handheld calculator, but his experience in radio ultimately led him to investigate outer space for other potential life.

Oliver tinkered with radio and computers creating innovative devices and held more than 60 patents throughout his life. Oliver began his career at the Bell Telephone Laboratories working on television transmission and automatic tracking radar. He later ran the research division at the Hewlett-Packard Company for four decades, creating HP 9100 the first programmable desktop calculator, Hewlett-Packard’s first computer along with the handheld calculator.

Oliver eventually threw himself in researching extraterrestrial life through radio astronomy. Using NASA radio telescopes Oliver searched for signs of intelligent life, and later moved to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in California. He developed a concept involving 10,000 dish antennas that could receive transmission signals from 200 light years away.

By Christine Ayala