Who am I?

Lawrence J. Krakauer in 2009My full name is Lawrence Jay Krakauer, and my nickname is "Larry". My life story can be organized more or less into decades, although this division is a little raggedy around the edges.

I was born in Brooklyn Note 1, New York, USA, on January 11, 1942, exactly five weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the US into World War II. Thus, my childhood and school years span the 1940's and 1950's. The "cutoff date" of the public school system in New York City was February first - if you were five years old by that date, you could enter first grade. Since my birthday was January 11, 1942, I entered the first grade in 1947, and I was always young for my grade.

By 1949, my family had moved to Great Neck, New York, where I entered the public school system Note 2 in the third grade. I was what you might call a "science-math" kid, influenced by my father, and my interests. I graduated from Great Neck North Senior High School in 1959, at the age of 17.

In the Great Neck Schools, I was influenced by several excellent teachers, in particular a seventh grade math teacher whose name I'm afraid I can't recall, Mr. Love in ninth-grade science, and Mr. Watson in a twelfth-grade course called "Great Issues". I also wrote for the High-school newspaper as a senior.

It was also in Great Neck that I first learned French. Although I wasn't very good at it back then, Mr. Canfield was an excellent teacher, and he taught with an emphasis on conversational French that was less common at the time than it is now. Perhaps that's why after my Sophomore year in college, I decided to spend a summer in the south of France, with a group called "Classrooms Abroad". On that trip, I became fascinated with the experience of speaking a foreign language, and my French improved greatly. It was later further solidified by a "stage", a technical training job, at the Eléctricité de France, in the Centre de Recherche de Réseau et Calculs Automatiques, located near Paris.

I attended college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ("MIT") in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA), from which I received the degree "Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering" ("BSEE") in 1963. I continued on at MIT, receiving my Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees, also in Electrical Engineering, the latter in June, 1970. Thus for me, the sixties coincided with MIT. My Ph.D. thesis was in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and my thesis advisor was Professor Marvin Minsky.

In the sixties, the MIT Ph.D. degree had a foreign language requirement: "Reading ability of technical literature" in two foreign languages, or "fluency" in one. I passed this requirement with fluency in French, which allowed me to then study Conversational German instead of Technical German. After a couple of years of study, I got pretty good at it, but it never reached the level of my French.

In the same month in which I received my Ph.D., June, 1970, I married Margret Berman, whom I met in the Boston area through computer dating, which had just been introduced (the service we used was called Data-Mate). Only some time after we met did we find out that we had relatives living next door to each other in the New York area. Thus started the seventies, which saw the beginning of my own family, with two daughters born in 1975 and 1978. It was also the start of my engineering career. My first non-MIT job was at Micronetic Systems, where I managed software development for a minicomputer-controlled industrial machine that trimmed thick-film resistors using a neodimium-doped YAG laser, where "YAG" stands for Yttrium-Aluminum Garnet (see Madhu and the death ray). I then worked for Codex Corporation, designing the hardware for a line of Statistical Multiplexors, among other things.

In April 1979, I began working for Kronos Incorporated, where I shortly became Vice President - Research and Development. This was the start of a twenty-four and a half year career at Kronos, where I stayed until the end of my 33-year work career. Thus the eighties and nineties are synonymous with Kronos and family, since at home during that period, my daughters were growing up.

French and German were my only two foreign languages during my early business career (and, to be honest, I haven't kept up my German, and it has faded pretty badly). But some time around 1988, I heard a story on the radio noting that some 15 million people in the United States spoke Spanish in their homes. My reaction was, "Great! Finally, a second language that I can actually use in the United States!" The trouble was, I didn't speak it. So I started to study Spanish, and I've kept it up ever since. In 1998, when Margie expressed an interest in a trip to Italy (she's an artist), I figured, hey, I already speak two Romance languages, so I should be able to learn some Italian. It's a beautiful language, and once I started, it was hard to stop - so I didn't.

So now, between classes at Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education and conversational discussion groups (with languages, it's "use it or lose it"), my evening activities are Italian on Mondays, Spanish on Tuesdays, and French on Wednesdays.

I retired from Kronos at the end of October, 2003. Since then, I've continued my study of French, Spanish, and Italian. I am the de-facto organizer of Le Cercle Français, which meets every other Wednesday evening for conversation in French (click the next link for more information Le Cercle, on my "old" web pages). Margie and I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to Europe at least once a year, usually to France or Italy. I've also stayed in touch with MIT, having been elected president of the MIT Class of 1963 in 1998. After I retired from Kronos, I began volunteering at MIT's Venture Mentoring Service, an organization that supports entrepreneurial activity by MIT students, staff, and alumni.

Because of my interest in foreign languages, some of my blog entries will be about them. As an engineer, I'm fascinated by the incredible technological changes that I've seen during my lifetime, and I'd like to pass on an appreciation of the amazing progress that has occurred in only the last seventy or so years. I think I'll be easily able to post at least one entry a week on this blog, and I hope a few readers will be interested in coming along for the ride.

UPDATE: Starting with the September 11, 2014 entry (#0245, Blogging on), I'll no longer be posting weekly, but I will continue posting to the blog from time to time. Write me if you want to get an e-mail message whenever an entry is posted.

#0002   *INTRO

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© 2010 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted January 11, 2010; slightly edited May 30, 2011

Footnotes (click [return to text] to go back to the footnote link)

Note 1:   In case I have readers not familiar with the City of New York: it is politically divided into five "boroughs", each of which corresponds to a "county" of the State of New York. They are Manhattan (county of New York), Brooklyn (Kings county), Queens (Queens county), the Bronx (county of the Bronx), and Staten Island (Richmond county).

If I have readers outside the United States: When a city name is given in the US, the state it is in must also be specified, as in, for example, "Springfield, Massachusetts". Otherwise, the name would be ambiguous. In the case of "Springfield", it would be very ambiguous, as there is a city or town named "Springfield" in at least 35 of the fifty US states. This "city, state" convention is why we sing, "New York, New York", generally written on a postal envelope as "New York, NY".   [return to text]

Note 2:   Any readers in the UK? In the United States, a "public" school is an elementary or secondary school supported by public funds, providing free education for the children of a community. In the UK, for some reason, a "public" school is actually a private boarding school.   [return to text]