Hector Skifter


Hector Skifter
Austin, MN, USA
Death date
Associated organizations
Airborne Instruments Laboratory, Department of Defense
Fields of study
Radar, Radio, Missile guidance


Hector R. Skifter (IRE Associate, 1931; Member, 1936; Senior Member, 1943; and Fellow, 1951) was born in Austin, Minnesota, on 4 March 1901, and died from a heart attack in 1964. . He received the B.A. degree from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1922, and an Honorary D. Sc. degree in 1945, also from St. Olaf College.

From 1922 to 1929, Skifter was an Instructor in Physics and Mathematics at St. Olaf College. He spent the next few years, from 1929 to 1932, as Chief Engineer of the Western Radio Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, During the next decade, from 1932 to 1942, he worked as a consulting radio engineer and served as Technical Supervisor of the National Battery Broadcasting Company, in St. Paul, form 1934 to 1942.

During World War II, he worked as Associate Director of the Airborne Instruments Laboratory (AIL) of the Columbia University Division of War Research under contract with the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), from 1942 to 1945. In this post, he was responsible for the development of the airborne magnetometer for submarine detection and the development of electronic countermeasures against German guided missiles. In August 1945, when the OSRD contract was terminated, AIL was incorporated as an independent laboratory with Skifter as president. In June 1958, when AIL merged with Culter-Hammer, Skifter was elected vice president of Culter-Hammer.

In 1957, Skifter served the Department of Defense as a part-time consultant. In February 1959, he took a leave of absence from his position as President of Airborne Instruments Laboratory to accept the full-time position of Assistant Director of Defense Research and Engineering, where he was responsible for technical evaluation and integration of defense weapons systems, planning and supervising the development of new and improved systems and their control environment, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles and interceptor aircraft. As part of his duties, Skifter served as Chairman of the Ballistic Missile Defense Steering Group, spearheaded the installation of the BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) program, and coordinated the planning for the development of the NIKE-ZEUS and the ARPA DEFENDER programs. He served as a member of the Department of Defense Panel for the evaluation program of the BOMARC Weapon System and was the Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Tripartie Conference (United States, United Kingdom, and Canada) Technical Subgroup on Defense Against Ballistic Missiles. In April 1960, he resigned from his position with the Department of Defense and rejoined AIL as president.

In 1962, Skifter was vice president and a director of Cutler-Hammer, Inc., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Research Analysis Corporation, and a Director of the American Research and Development Corporation and of Rabinow Engineering Company. He was also a consultant to the President's Science Advisory Committee, Executive Office of the President; and a member of the Army Scientific Advisory Panel, the New York State Scientific Advisory Council, and the Advisory Committee, Department of Ordnance, U.S. Army. Before 1962, he had been a member of the Board of Directors of Intercontinental Electronics Corporation and Cramer Controls, Inc., and a member of the Gaither Secretary Resources Panel of the President's Science Advisory Committee.

Skifter was a member of the Cosmos Club, the Wings Club, and the University Clubs of Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee; and in 1962, he was a director of Nassau Hospital, New York, New York; and a Director of the Long Island Fund.