Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame


Joseph Killpatrick - 1995 Inductee

(1933 - ) Honeywell Military Avionics research engineer, Joseph Killpatrick directed and led development of a wide range of control instruments and systems, the most significant being the ring laser gyroscope - an angular rate sensor made out of light beams instead of rotating mechanical wheels. The ring laser gyroscope, part of a navigational system used in commercial and military aircraft, and in spacecraft, uses the difference in frequency between two counter rotating beams to sense rotation. It is part of an inertial navigation device that helps guide, steer, and stabilize the airplane. In fact, thanks to Killpatrick and his research team, a plane can fly from Chicago to London, drifting less than one nautical mile per hour from its flight route, a phenomenal feat of navigational accuracy based on ring laser developments.

The ring laser gyro (RLG) is a complex device that had about 100 researchers and scientists working on it all over the world. Killpatrick was a world leader in the development of ring laser gyroscope technology and is considered to be the "Father of the Ring Laser Gyroscope" due to his leadership, energy, and innovative ideas. His inventions are the heart of this device, which has changed the world of inertial navigation, guidance, and control. He pioneered major developments increasing the lifetime, reducing the size and cost, and improving manufacturing processes. He worked more than 40 years on the RLG and revealed far more about it and introduced more innovative ideas and inventions on it than all other persons in the world combined. The concepts and techniques he developed are now used by virtually every company involved in laser gyro technology. He was granted 40 patents, mostly on the ring laser gyro.

NOTE: These biographies have been compiled from information accompanying the nomination form submitted to the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, information available on the Internet and from a variety of other sources.