Actions of MIT’s 15th president have ‘grown to inspire generations,’ Reif says.
Dr. Carl F.J. Overhage, a physicist and electrical engineer who led a research group in the Airborne Division at the Radiation Laboratory during World War II and later headed Lincoln Laboratory from 1957 to 1964, died August 7 in Santa Fe, where he lived. He was 85.
Dr. Overhage's time at Lincoln Lab's helm was marked by several notable achievements, including the successful completion of work on the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) system of continental air defense; the establishment of the MITRE Corp. to operate the system for the government, and the reorientation of the laboratory's technical programs toward research and development in new fields that included radar, radio physics and astronomy, space surveillance and ballistic missile defense.
He became professor of engineering in 1961. After leaving the Lincoln Lab post in July 1964 he initiated and directed a long-range program (Project INTREX) for the application of the then-emerging principles and methods of information processing to library operations at MIT. He retired from the faculty in 1973.
A native of London, Dr. Overhage received the BS, MS and PhD degrees in physics at the California Institute of Technology between 1931 and 1937.
After the war he joined Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, NY, where he became assistant director of the color technology division. His subsequent career was divided between photography and electronics. He was on leave from Kodak when he first came to MIT in 1951 as part of a group studying air defense problems. He became a member of the initial staff of Lincoln Laboratory before returning to Kodak. He rejoined the Lincoln Lab staff in 1955 and lived in Belmont.
Dr. Overhage was awarded a presidential Certificate of Merit for his technical contributions during World War II. In 1958 the Air Force presented him the Exceptional Service Award for contributions to aerial reconnaissance.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Katya G. Overhage.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 1995.