Ken was highly regarded as a long time NRC Vice-President and multi-lab program manager. A humble and very respectful executive and leader, he inspired people to do better because they wanted to help him.
But I believe that Ken's impact on Canada and innovation internationally will always be his cross-disciplinary engineering programs and pioneering research in practical and commercial application of computer technologies in the late 1960s and 1970s.
I could elaborate, but others have said it much better. For example ...
Bill Buxton, the Canadian genius who became the Principal Researcher of Microsoft in the U.S.A., worked in Ottawa at NRC during his early career and has written that this is where systems were pioneered on “human-computer interaction”, saying it was the result of the“key insight of Ken Pulfer, who spearheaded the project, (which) was that to do this effectively he needed to work with users- in some rich and potent application domain.”
This paper said that the significance of Ken's work ”transcends the publications. For example, for any graphics or HCI student who has come out of the University of Toronto, this work is a significant part of their heritage – whether they know it or not. In fact, the music and animation systems developed at NRC provided one of the key catalysts to Canadian strength in HCI (Human Computer Interface) ... (as well as commercial applications in) computer music, and computer animation.”
In the 2008 Book HCI Remixed (MIT Press) Thomas Erickson (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center) and David W. McDonald (University of Washington), Microsoft's Buxton says, in talking of Ken Pulfer and his team, “I am still striving to be worthy of the folks who gave me this, my first introduction to what has become my career.”
My condolences to his family.