David Dorsi

David Dorsi
Stirling, NY, USA
Associated organizations
Bell Labs


It was a different world when David Dorsi was a youngster. He was born in 1925 in Stirling, New Jersey and managed to spend pretty much his entire life in and around that small town. The Dorsis were Italian-American, as was the next family on the block, and the one after that. In fact, the whole village turned out for the annual Ferragosto celebration, and the Columbus Club was so popular that its membership rolls were nearly the equivalent of census. But such memories of jubilance should not obscure the fact that these were the years of the Great Depression. The hard times meant young David Dorsi had to milk the four cows and pawn eggs at 25 cents a dozen before marching to school, but for the young man there was also a certain thrill in survival in adverse times. The school bell would ring and Dorsi would fly from the schoolhouse into the nearby New Jersey swamps where he would check his muskrat and mink traps, and then creep along, gun in hand, ready to pounce a pheasant and other small game.

When he was through will his schooling, jobs were pretty scarce in inland New Jersey, and David's less fortunate classmates jumped at the opening of an asbestos plant. Then in 1942 Bell Labs planted its new facility a few towns over, in Murray Hill. Dorsi moseyed over to inquire, and was soon enough was moseying over every morning as an employee. Working as a utility hand was less than David was capable was, and so, when the German glassblowers motioned him over to their benches, he stood proud at attention, and before long was accepted as an informal apprentice glassblower. Dorsi blew his way up the ranks, and remained in the glass department of Bell Labs the rest of his career. The job could be mundane at times -- for beakers must be polished -- but for Dorsi it was mostly about creativity and perfecting his skills. The Labs' scientists would request some uninvented contraption ("They were kooky, a lot of these scientists.") and it would be up to Dorsi to figure out how to make it. A lot of trial and error was involved, but when the final product was achieved, the feat was acknowledged all around.

Further Reading

To read David Dorsi's story in his own words, see Bell Labs Memoirs: Voices of Innovation