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Obituary: Dr. Jay W. Lathrop

Dr. Jay W. Lathrop

ASHEVILLE, NC – Dr. Jay W. Lathrop, son of the late Frank and Beatrice Lathrop was born a Prince of Maine in Bangor in 1927 and raised in Orono, Maine. He died peacefully at his home at the Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community in Asheville, NC with his two daughters by his side on October 9, 2022. He entered the University of Maine as a 14-year old and decided he wanted to become a physicist. At 15 he transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he received the BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Physics. It was at MIT where he met and became friends with fellow graduate student, Robert Noyce, who later founded Intel.

Lathrop was employed for 7 years by the National Bureau of Standards/Diamond Ordnance Fuze Laboratories (NBS/DOFL) Washington, DC; for 10 years by Texas Instruments, Dallas, TX (TI); and for 20 years by Clemson University Clemson, SC where he was professor of electrical engineering.

He was a primary instigator of the technology revolution that occurred with development of “the chip” back in the 50s. It was through his work at NBS/DOFL that photography was first used in the fabrication of transistors, a procedure for which his group coined the word “photolithography” and which is still in use today. For this work he and members of his team were awarded the Army’s highest civilian achievement medal by the Secretary of the Army in a Pentagon ceremony in 1958.

At TI he worked with Jack Kilby, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the integrated circuit (microchip). The other microchip co-inventor was his graduate school friend, Robert Noyce. Lathrop developed methods of fabricating microchips using the technique he had pioneered at NBS/DOFL and became Director of Advanced Technology for the Semiconductor Division at TI.

At Clemson he directed the electrical engineering department’s transition from vacuum tubes to solid state technology. He was namesake and first recipient of the IEEE’s “Jay Lathrop Outstanding South Carolina EE Education Award”. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE). In 2011 he was inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists. 

He is survived by:  daughter, Margaret (Peggy) Stringer, Helena, MT;  daughter, Victoria (Vicky) Bannon, Alexis, NC;  son, David Lathrop, Savannah, GA;  stepdaughter, Mary West, PhD, Clemson, SC ;  grandchildren: Matthew Lathrop, Seneca, SC;    Jay Stringer, PhD, Durham, NC;  Jessica Stringer, Esq, Greensboro, NC;  Lindsay Phillips, Taylors, SC;  4 great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by:  his beloved significant other, Ada Phillips of Asheville, NC; son, Frank Lathrop, West Union, SC;    first wife, Marjorie Lathrop, Helena, MT; second wife, Sarah Scott, Seneca, SC; stepdaughter Susan Woodruff, Frankfort, IN.

Dr. Lathrop was a lifelong free thinker and Humanist who donated his body to the Medical University of South Carolina. Per his request there will be no funeral observance. Memorials may be made to the Asheville Humane Society. 

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