September/October 2011
ISA Automation Week: Automation Founder Circle

EDITOR'S NOTE: ISA continues its tradition of honoring leaders throughout the automation industry by presenting the Automation Founders Circle awards. This year's recipients are Martin Klein with the Arnold O. Beckman Founder Award, Gerald Wilbanks with ISA's 2011 Life Achievement Award, and Andy Chatha with the ISA Honorary Member award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society.

Sonar advances, underwater discoveries earn Klein ISA Beckman Award

By Jim Strothman
 Automation Founders Circle

Fifty years ago, Martin Klein, then a young electrical engineering student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), needed a subject for a thesis.

He "kind of stumbled" into the MIT lab of Dr. Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton, the "E" in EG&G International, Inc. "I asked if he had anything interesting to work on," Klein recalled.

"My life changed forever that day," he said.

Edgerton, who had been doing underwater photography with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution since the late 1930s, had begun experimenting with sonar technology in the 1950s while working with famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

Cousteau was taking deep-underwater photos in the Mediterranean. "In order to position that camera in the deep sea, (Edgerton) developed a device that produced two main signals that were tracked on a special recorder," Klein said. "Edgerton observed that the device showed the bottom, and also the geology under the bottom."

sonar 2

Mud penetrator launched career

"He started working on a gadget called the mud penetrator, and by a quirk of fate, I started assisting on this project." Klein significantly improved the device's signal clarity, delighting Edgerton.

In the years that followed, Klein developed-then continually improved-an instrumentation technology that forever changed underwater exploration.

Called commercial dual-channel side-scan sonar, the technology enabled ocean explorers to find the Titanic in 1985; USS Monitor; one of the most preserved War of 1812 ships sunk in Lake Ontario; and Benedict Arnold's gunboat in Lake Champlain, among many other shipwrecks.

Side-scan sonar also was used to find the remains of the Space Shuttle Challenger and downed aircraft, including TWA Flight 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, and John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane off the Massachusetts coast.

'Towfish' linked to surface recorder

Klein's technology typically consists of a torpedo-looking underwater device, dubbed a "towfish." Instrumented with transducers, the sonar device is attached via cable to a recorder aboard a surface ship.

"We've used the systems on big ships and small boats. I've used canoes, sailboats … all manner of vessels," Klein said.

Today, many nations' Navies use side-scan sonar, as do oil companies determining where to build pipelines. The sonar is also used in marine geology, hydrography, environmental studies, fisheries, dredging, and engineering projects.

Explored Loch Ness

In 1970, Klein teamed with Robert H. Rines, a famous patent attorney and MIT teacher of patent law. Rines had a fascination with Loch Ness' reputed monster. Also an inventor and holder of numerous technical patents, Rines in 1963 founded the Academy of Applied Science.

"We never did see a monster," Klein recalled, "but we saw large moving objects in the Loch." He acknowledges they "may have been tree branches or clumps of algae."

However, "we did find significant things," he said. His side-scan sonar showed large caves existed in the Loch's steep walls. In addition, "we found stone circle formations, which may have been made by an ancient civilization-maybe 100 feet in diameter-across the length and width of the Loch."

By accident, "we also found a twin-engine British Wellington Bomber Aircraft that went down in World War II," Klein said. It was raised and is now on display in an England museum.

Wins Beckman Award

Recognizing the significance of his technology, ISA will honor Klein by presenting him with its Arnold O. Beckman Founder Award on 17 October, the opening day of ISA Automation Week.

Given in honor of Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, founder of Beckman Instruments, the award "recognizes a significant technological contribution to the conception and implementation of a new principle of instrument design, development, or application."

Klein's citation credits him "for the invention and development of the dual-channel side-scan sonar instrumentation, which opened the world's oceans for exploration, safe navigation, and underwater recovery."

"I'm honored and humbled," said Klein, who left EG&G in 1967 to form his own company, Klein Associates, Inc. He started it in a basement of his rented apartment, and then later moved to a lumberyard he converted in Salem, N.H.-well aware his sonar-manufacturing competitors were giant defense firms with deep pockets, including EG&G and Westinghouse.

"Because of my field, I'm involved in many different worlds. In some, I am well known, in others, not at all. But like Beckman, I've always felt of myself as an instrument man," he said.

"We made a difference in opening up ocean exploration," Klein humbly said.

Award draws accolades

"Marty was the first to envision combining side-scan sonar technology with sub-bottom profiling, manufacturing what would be known as the Klein TriFish," said Garry Kozak, who became a customer in 1974 and several years later became a Klein Associates employee.

Michael Fedenyszen, an I&C engineer with Vanderweil Engineers and ISA Boston Section Nomination Committee chair, nominated Klein for the Beckman award and obtained numerous letters from past and present Klein professional colleagues supporting Klein's nomination.

"Today, side-scan sonar instrumentation is used by the U.S. government, corporations, research institutions, and marine archaeologists around the world to map ocean floors, lakes, and river beds and to find objects of great interest and value," Fedenyszen said.

"Martin Klein was the unanimous choice of the (ISA Honors & Awards) subcommittee for the Beckman Founders Award," said Alan McMurry, subcommittee chair. "His contribution to the automation field with his side-scan sonar invention clearly meets the award criteria."

"Underwater archaeologists are indebted to Martin Klein and his instrumentation. There is no single piece of remote sensing equipment that has been used more by underwater archeologists than Klein side-scan sonar," said Joseph W. Zarzynski, a board-certified underwater archaeologist and executive-director of Bateaux Below, Inc., Wilton, N.Y.

Received many honors

Last March, the Boston Sea Rovers, a pioneer diving organization, named Klein "2011 Diver of the Year." This year also is MIT's 150th anniversary, and a special exhibition at the MIT Museum includes one of Klein's side-scan sonars.

In 2006, he received one of the Marine Technology Society/IEEE's highest honors, the Compass Distinguished Achievement Award. 

An ISA Senior Life Member, he also is a LIFE Member of IEEE and the Navy League. He holds several U.S. and U.K. patents related to his technology and authored or co-authored numerous papers and articles for technical journals about the technology and underwater explorations.

Mentors young inventors

Mirroring his own mentor, "Doc" Edgerton, Klein since 2003 has volunteered his time to judge and mentor at regional and international remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competitions sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, based in Monterey, Calif.

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the MATE competition challenges grade 5 through college students worldwide to work in teams developing ROVs.

Klein "inspired and encouraged (students), as well as teachers and parents who participated, to pursue their passions, seek the knowledge and skills they need, and remain committed," said Jill Zande, MATE Center associate director and competition coordinator.

"One of my goals in life is to help students and entrepreneurs starting their own businesses," Klein said.

"I come back from those meetings saying, 'the world is OK. (The students) are bright and have a positive attitude'. It's fun!"

"I believe (Klein's) legacy will be his technology developments as well as his giving back and encouraging future pioneers in the field," Zande said.