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Donald R. Herriott

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Donald R. Herriott, age 79, of Wrentham, MA, died Thursday, November 8, 2007, after a long illness. An optical physicist, he pioneered laser technology from its origins through many applications including integrated circuit production advances.

Son of the late William and Lois (Denton) Herriott, he was born in Rochester, New York on February 4, 1928, and was raised and educated in Chatham, NJ.

After serving with the U.S. Navy, he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity while studying physics at Duke University. He later studied optics at the University of Rochester while working for Bausch and Lomb.

He married Karis Smith and they raised three daughters and a son in Morristown, New Jersey. After six years with Bausch and Lomb, in 1956, Mr. Herriott joined Bell Laboratories as a troubleshooter and optical consultant. In 1961, he and his colleagues invented the first continuously operating laser using Helium-Neon technology, for which he received the 1977 Outstanding Patent Award.

Using computer controlled laser etching, his group also developed high precision techniques and equipment for making the "masks" from which integrated circuits are printed. In 1981, he began consulting as Senior Science Advisor for Perkin Elmer.

Among his numerous awards and recognitions are the Fraunhofer Medal from the American Institute of Physics in 1984, the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award in 1986, and the 1981 Cleo Brunetti Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In his twenty five years at Bell Laboratories, he generated 35 patents including the Helium-Neon Laser, the optics of integrated circuit mask making techniques, the EBES electron lithographic system, and wave front measuring techniques.

A major force in the Optical Society of America, Mr. Herriott served at various times as Director, President and Vice President and was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

As accomplished and dedicated at play as he was at work, he particularly enjoyed sailplane gliding, skiing, building houses, painting, camping, orchid growing and espalier culture, remote controlled aircraft and boats, farming and birding.

Significant avocations included an anemometer company which he began while working with Bausch and Lomb, and a retirement venture filming and producing videotapes of birding at sites throughout North America. He had resided on Sanibel Island in Florida for more than twenty years following his retirement and had moved recently from Fort Myers to Wrentham.

He is survived by his wife, Karis Smith Herriott, three daughters, Jean E. Maier of Millis, MA, Ann B. Herriott of Suffern, NY, and Nancy J. Purkis of Wrentham, MA, a son, Donald R. Herriott, Jr. of Rio Dell, CA, two sisters, Jean Gilbreth of Cumming, GA, and Elizabeth Herriott of Middlesex, NY, and six grandchildren.

A private family service will be held at a later date. Contributions may be made to the Alvin Dubin Alzheimer Disease Resource Center, 10051 McGregor Blvd., Suite 101, Fort Myers, FL, 33919, or the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, One Wildlife Dr., Sanibel Island, FL 33957. For guest book and additional information, please see

Published in The News-Press on Nov. 20, 2007
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