UC Berkeley professor emeritus George Turin dies at 84

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George Turin, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus in the department of electrical engineering and computer sciences, died mid-March. He was 84.

Friends, family, colleagues and students remember him as a deeply thoughtful and compassionate person. In addition to his contributions as a professor, Turin was known as one of the forefathers of startup companies.

“What really stands out is his bringing together what we now call entrepreneurship and the university,” said David Culler, chair of the campus EECS department.

Turin joined the faculty of EECS at UC Berkeley in 1960 and later served as the chair of the department from 1980 to 1983. In 1983, he moved to UCLA to serve as the dean of the school of engineering and applied science, staying there until 1986, when he returned to UC Berkeley.

In 1968, Turin helped found and direct the Teknekron Corporation with several other UC Berkeley professors. Teknekron Corporation specializes in linking high-technology firms with researchers in universities. In addition to serving as vice president of technology for Teknekron, Turin was a consultant to many industrial and governmental organizations.

“Teknekron Corporation existed in Berkeley for many years, and many successful companies spawned out of that,” Culler said. “Many of the things we see today were ideas that George was advocating in the late ’80s, early ’90s, trying to bring academia, industry and innovation closer together.”

Turin was born in New York City on Jan. 27, 1930. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1947, then received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From 1952 to 1956, he worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory while getting his doctorate. For four years before he came to UC Berkeley, he was also a staff member of the Hughes Research Laboratories in Culver City and Malibu.

“He was a spiritual atheist who had profound insight into the cosmos through deep reading of history, physics, economics and biography, yet found the heart to be intimate and kind with his many friends,” said his son David Turin in an email.

Turin was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Guggenheim fellow and a visiting fellow of the Science and Engineering Research Council in the United Kingdom. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and served as a trustee of the College Preparatory School of Oakland.

Turin married Helen Elizabeth Green on Sept. 11, 1964, who died in 1998. He is survived by his son David, his daughter Abigail Turin and his granddaughters Grace Garner and Helena Gans.

The EECS department is currently accepting donations in his memory.

“He was more than a grandfather; he was a storybook character who often made dreams into reality through his careful planning and consistency,” Garner, his granddaughter, said. “His home as well as his arms were a delight to be in.”

Contact Taryn Smith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tarynshelby.