Resident of Los Gatos
1921 - 2011
THE FATHER OF RFID
Charles Alfred Dodgson Walton died peacefully on Sunday, November 6, at Our Lady of Fatima Villa in Saratoga, with his son at his side. He was 89 years old.
"Chappie" was born December 11, 1921, in Spondon, England, the son of Charles Dodgson Walton and Clara Ledger Walton. He was raised in Cumberland, Maryland, and Scarsdale and Pleasantville, New York. He was educated at George School and studied Electrical Engineering at Cornell University (B.S., 1943) and Stevens Institute of Technology (M.S., 1950). Walton became a U.S. citizen in 1944 while serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
While working for IBM, Walton was transferred to San Jose, and in 1960 settled with his family in Los Gatos. In 1972 he left IBM to start his own company, Proximity Devices, which was based on his patents in radio frequency identification, now known as RFID. The first patent to use the abbreviation RFID was issued to Walton in 1983. Later, as president of Walton Electronics, he "retired" to a life of independent research and development.
The keyless system used today on numerous doors and parking lots descended from Walton's inventions. RFID tags are now used by the billions as a substitute for bar code identification, to track warehoused goods and in many other applications.
A 2004 article in the San Jose Mercury News described him as "one of Silicon Valley's unsung inventors". In 2005, Walton received the Founder's Medal, the highest award made by the International Society of Logistics. In 2006 he was nominated for the Lemelson-MIT Program Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his over 50 patents.
Walton had a strong social conscience and was equally proud of his work as a peace advocate and writer, the subject of a 1996 Doer's Profile in the San Jose Mercury News. His many letters to the editor earned him the San Jose Mercury's Silver Pen Award, and a highlighted box in Scientific American (January, 2000). To get young people involved in thinking about remedies to global problems, he founded the Walton Peace Essay Challenge contest for high school students in Santa Clara County. The contest was conducted annually for twenty years.
Walton was an active participant with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos, the Committee for Green Foothills, Sierra Club, West Valley Democratic Club, Amnesty International, Peace Center of San Jose, and Collins Foundation. He was the largest single donor to the construction of the lighthouse at the mouth of Santa Cruz Harbor, completed in 2001. The Walton Lighthouse is named in honor of his father and his brother, Derek, a seaman.
Walton's two younger brothers, Derek and Stanley, predeceased him. Walton honored the memory of his parents and brothers by endowing redwood groves in Big Basin State Park through the Sempervirens Foundation. Walton is survived by three children: his son Christopher of Santa Cruz, his son Jonathan of East Lansing, Michigan, and his daughter Anne of Amherst, Massachusetts; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos on Sunday, December 18, 2011, at 3:00. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Sierra Club.
Published by San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Dec. 4, 2011.