September 2 – Happy Birthday Robert Laudise

LaudiseIf you are a male anywhere near my age (born in 1954) and you attended public school in Amsterdam as a kid, you had a guy named Anthony Laudise at Theodore Roosevelt Junior High who taught you woodworking. His shop/classroom was on the basement floor of that gigantic eyesore of a school building that used to face Guy Park Avenue opposite from where the Inman Senior Citizen Center is located today.

Mr. Laudise was a pretty strict disciplinarian who treated every piece of wood he assigned to each student as if it was a gold brick coming out of Fort Knox. If you screwed it up, you owned it, like the time I brought home what was supposed to be a duck shaped note holder that I made in his class as an eighth grader. My Mom asked me what it was supposed to be. When I told her a duck she said something like “Really! A duck huh? If you say so sweetie than a duck it is!”

In addition to the end products we brought home to our parents, another benefit from Mr. Laudise’s class was understanding a manufacturing process. On day one we’d pick out our raw material and measure out our cuts. On day two we’d make our cuts, on day three we’d paint our pieces, on day four we’d assemble our pieces etc. I so wish I had paid more attention to him back then because today, I remain a lousy home woodworker.

Anthony was married to another Amsterdam public school teacher named Harriet Laudise and the two of them lived in a very neatly kept home on upper Division Street. In the basement of that home, Mr. Laudise had constructed a science lab. It was for their only child, today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Robert Laudise who was born on September 2, 1930. That basement lab turned out to be at least as historically significant as the home basketball court young Michael Jordan played on as a kid.

Young Robert Laudise ran track in high school was active in scouting and loved to read all kinds of books. After graduating from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1948 he went to Union College in Schenectady to study chemistry. From there it was on to MIT where he earned his Ph.D. He immediately accepted a job offer from Bell Labs, which at the time was one of the most prestigious research laboratories in the entire World.

Every electronic device needs some sort of oscillator, the part that converts a direct current from the power source to the alternating current the device uses as needed. Quartz was the key material used in oscillator production back then but natural quartz needed to be mined and it suffered from a high failure rate under high temperatures. These two factors made its use in electronics expensive. So Laudise set out professionally to figure out how to find a substitute and he focused on man made synthetic quartz.

His work in that area was groundbreaking. In 1966, Dr. Laudise and his team at Bell developed a synthetic quartz that overcame the heat problems and revolutionized the electronics industry. It was used to improve the performance of all kinds of electronic products and make those products less costly to manufacture.

What most impressed Dr. Laudise about his work was the fact that as a result of his research and knowledge, an entire manufacturing plant was constructed in West Andover, Massachusetts where hundreds of people were employed in the process of producing the massive amounts of synthetic quartz needed to supply the World’s electronics industry. Now I’m sure the process for manufacturing synthetic quartz was a bit more involved than making those duck-shaped note-holders we made in his Dad’s class, but I guarantee you that the influences and encouragements of my old woodworking teacher played a pretty significant role in the way his son went about his work.

Dr. Laudise ended up settling in New Jersey, marrying a teacher and raising five kids of his own. He had become the World’s leading authority on synthetic quartz technology and he wrote books and travelled the world lecturing on the topic. Unfortunately, Bob died in 1998 after battling cancer.

He has been honored since in many prestigious ways but I thought it best to share this reason given by his wife Joyce Laudise, when she explained why a scholarship in Robert’s name was being set up at MIT;

“As a boy, my husband crossed a stream on his way to school that changed color depending on the dyes used at the carpet mill upstream. Later, he remembered ‘No Swimming’ signs at the nearby lake because it was polluted. It really struck him. He studied chemistry as a grad student at MIT and later became a big proponent of industrial ecology. When he died of cancer at 67, it was in the back of my mind to establish a scholarship at MIT in his memory. He thought the world of MIT, because it offered so many promises for the future. He felt an MIT education, and a background in science, was the key to solving the world’s technical and social problems. The scholarship is an opportunity to remember him, but it’s also an opportunity to continue his work into the future. Bob said, ‘My dream for the 21st century is to combine a healthy economy with a clean environment.’ His dream doesn’t happen without people. And if these young recipients will go on to do their work in science and technology and think about the environment first, they will be able to do the work that improves life for future generations.”

This September 2nd Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant wrote many episodes of Gunsmoke, one of the most popular television series in history:

This September 2nd Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant was a good and longtime friend of mine who loved this City deeply.

This September 2nd Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant was the guy who threw the switch that lit up the baseball field up at Shuttleworth Park for the very first time in history.

2 thoughts on “September 2 – Happy Birthday Robert Laudise

  1. With All Do Respect….Mr. Laudise was quite the character…He did, I think have a finger missing…and his wife was nicknamed spitballl….not being bad, LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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