Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame


William N. Mayer - 1998 Inductee

(1930 - ) An electrical engineer who engaged in innovative research in various technical disciplines, Mayer has spent a lifetime creating new entrepreneurial ventures and inventions. His first job after college was in engineering research with Automatic Electric’s Research Laboratory in Chicago, where he conducted research in the field of voice signal bandwidth compression and semi-conductor time - and frequency - division telephone switching systems. He then joined General Mills in Minneapolis, where he worked on receiver and antenna designs for use in balloon technology, and conducted basic research in thin film technology, including techniques for radio frequency-exciting plasmas and for sputtering by excitation with high frequency fields. He next was employed by Control Data Systems, where he held several positions over a 13-year career as a Senior Research Scientist and Director of Thin Film Research, where he continued his research relating to thin film and sputtering technology. He became the Director of Exploratory Products Lab (1969-1972), Manager of Display Systems (1972-1973), and Executive Consultant, Research and Advanced Technology Group (1973-1976), where he worked on the development of NDRO thin magnetic films for use in military computer systems, and plasma displays for computer systems.

He was for many years continuously involved in scientific research and advanced engineering design work. Mayer joined Modern Controls, Inc. (Mocom) in 1976, a Minnesota company known for its work in the field of high-precision test instrumentation for use in a number of industries. He initially had the responsibility for adapting plasma technology into a line of display products. He successfully developed a computer input/output terminal having a plasma display and keyboard. However, his work became displaced by the development elsewhere of less costly liquid crystal display devices, so Mayer shifted his energies into research relating to Mocon’s products in oxygen detection systems, pharmaceutical tablet and capsule weighing and sorting systems, and plastic membrane thickness measurement instrumentation. His invention of the ultra-sensitive oxygen detector enabled Mocom to design test instruments which are several orders of magnitude more sensitive than previously thought possible.

He has received 28 patents in magnetic thin film technology, plasma displays for computers, pharmaceutical weighing and classifying instruments, plastic membrane thickness measurements, and oxygen detection and vapor transmission measurement instruments, with others pending at the time of his induction into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame. Mayer became president of Mocon in 1984. His leadership led to numerous awards for the Company, and recognition of the Company as one of the 200 Best Small Companies in America (1988-1991, Forbes), and one of the High Tech 100 (1992 Corporate Report).

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.