Jerry Merryman, an inventor of pocket calculator, dies

Credit: Phyllis Merryman via AP

Credit: Phyllis Merryman via AP

You may not know his name, but you know what he did. Jerry Merryman, one of the men who developed the hand-held electronic calculator, has died.

Merryman died Feb. 27 at a Dallas hospital. According to his stepdaughter, Kim Ikovic, he died from complications of heart and kidney failure. Merryman had complications from surgery for a pacemaker, The Associated Press reported.

Merryman worked on the hand-held calculator while he was at Texas Instruments. Jack Kilby led the team and invented the integrated circuit. Kilby won the Nobel Prize for his invention. James Van Tassell was the third member of the calculator development team.

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One coworker of Merryman was amazed by his work.

"Jerry did the circuit design on this thing in three days, and if he was ever around, he'd lean over and say, 'and nights,'" Ed Millis told the AP.

Another colleague called Merryman brillant.

“I have a Ph.D. in material science and I’ve known hundreds of scientists, professors, Nobel prize-winners and so on. Jerry Merryman was the most brilliant man that I’ve ever met. Period. Absolutely outstandingly brilliant. He had an incredible memory and he had an ability to pull up formulas, information, on almost any subject,” Vernon Porter said.

Merryman however was a little more humble about his discovery.

According to the AP, he spoke with NPR in 2013 about the team's invention, saying that Kilby challenged the team to come up with the calculator. "He says, we'd like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand." Merryman then told NPR, "Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution."

The team applied for a patent in September 1967, two years after Kilby’s challenge. The final application was submitted in June 1974.

Merryman was 86.

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