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Microwave Scanning Systems
Few Americans have made such a sweeping contribution to the process and business of inventing as Robert Rines, a trailblazer in the realms of invention, education, law, and public policy.
Robert H. Rines was born in 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned a BS in Physics from MIT, where he was a star pupil of MIT's then new Radiation Laboratory. During World War II, Rines joined the US Army Signal Corps as an expert in high resolution image-scanning radar; there, the modulations technique he invented were essential in building the Army's top-secret Microwave Early Warning System.
When the War was over, Rines earned a law degree from Georgetown University (1946). While in law school, Rines worked as a Patent Examiner for the US Patent Office; after graduating, he became a specialist in patent law, while continuing to invent.
Most of Rines' own patents, which now number more than eighty, are for electronic apparatus that improve the resolution of radar and sonar scanning. For example, the high-definition sonar scanning systems used to locate the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck depended on Rines' prototypes, as do many modern boat and air navigation systems. In the military realm, Rines' high-definition image-scanning radar patents were essential to weapons fire-control and early-warning systems used by the US from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.
Rines is not only an inventor: he is a major supporter of inventors and defender of inventors' rights. In his over fifty years as a patent attorney, he has assisted hundreds of US inventors, as an advocate in litigation and as an advisor in commercial affairs. Rines has helped found a number of companies, many to produce his own inventions. He has also been a member of the Technical Advisory Board of the US Department of Commerce, and he played a major role in revising the patent system of Taiwan (at whose Chiao Tung University he earned a PHD in 1972). At the same time, Rines has been a force in the recent lobbying against Congress' altering the US patent system to make it more like those of European countries.
In 1963, Rines founded the Academy of Applied Science, a New Hampshire - based private, non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of science and technology education at all levels. Since the 1950s, Rines had been a Lecturer in intellectual property at Harvard and MIT; in 1973, he founded the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire. Under Rines' aegis FPLC soon became, and has remained, the nation's foremost institute for the study of intellectual property law.
In 1994, Rines was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1997, Rines made a splash in the popular press, when PBS' NOVA series aired a documentary about his two attempts to use advanced scanning technology to hunt the Loch Ness Monster --- the first (in 1975) a collaboration with MIT's Doc Edgerton. The results were no more than tantalizing; but Rines' have been the most scientific efforts yet to solve that mystery.
Today, in addition to teaching at MIT and Franklin Pierce, lawyering, and lobbying, Robert Rines is still inventing. His most recent patent (October 1999), shared with a team from the Academy of Applied Science, was for an internet-based, real-time distance learning system. This was quite fitting, in that MIT had dedicated a distance learning center in Rines' honor in 1997.