Inventor of the Pulsar Watch
THERE is a widespread belief
in Bulgaria that the country has never been able to keep its best offspring
because they always leave to find a better place to make a living.
Unfortunately, one can easily share this view, as most of the Bulgarians that
have introduced anything of importance to the world have been from among those
that left their homeland. Perhaps this is not such a problem, as long as
Bulgarians do not forget those that brought the fame.
Following this line of
thought, one name that was long ago forgotten in Bulgaria was that of Peter
Petroff (Petar Petrov), and only the news of his death brought his name back to
the minds of Bulgarians.
Peter Dimitroff Petroff, 83,
an engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and an
inventor whose enterprises developed a heart monitor and the digital wristwatch
30 years ago, died on February 27 at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. He was a
native of Bulgaria who moved to Canada and then to the US after World War 2,
and in 1968 founded Care Electrics, a high-tech company that developed a
wireless heart monitor for hospitals. The company became Electro/Data, which
created the prototype of the digital watch. Marketed by the Hamilton Watch
Company as the Pulsar, it sold for $2100 in 1971.
Petroff was born in the
Bulgarian village of Brestovitsa, and, while almost nothing is known of his
life in Bulgaria, his later existence was marked with the name of a great
inventor. He was born on October 21, 1919 to the family of Dimitar Petrov, a
priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and his wife Vasillia. After attending a
religious seminary, Petroff enlisted in the French Foreign legion in October
He was captured by the
Germans while defending the French Maginot Line in 1940, and sent to a German
Prisoner Of War camp in Poland. He returned to Bulgaria in March 1941 and
became an officer in the Bulgarian Army. His duties included being a palace guard
to King Boris III of Bulgaria and participating in the Honour Guard for the
funeral of Turkey's President, Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
In 1944, he moved to Germany
to study engineering at the University of Munich.
He graduated from Darmstadt
and Stuttgart universities with a master's degree in electrical, mechanical,
and civil engineering. While in Germany he also studied his life long passion,
naval architecture, and designed and built the first of over 60 boats in 1947.
Petroff arrived in Toronto in
1951 via wartime France and Germany. He worked on arctic engineering and
construction projects for the US Air Force at Goose Bay, Labrador, and Thule,
He went to Indochina in 1956
for assignments in bridge and power plant construction. Three years later, he
sailed a 65-foot catamaran of his own design to Melbourne, Florida, where he
joined the space projects carried out by a precursor of the Harris Corporation.
He helped design systems for early weather and communications satellites and
organized the company's semiconductor division.
Moving to Huntsville in 1963,
Petroff was recruited by Wernher von Braun to work on the new Saturn rocket for
the Apollo space programme. During that period, his employers were NASA, and
Boeing and Northrop, its contractors.
1975, Petroff and his sons founded ADS Environmental Services, a maker of
computerized pollution monitoring equipment for the world market. He sold his
interest in the company in 1995 but rejoined his sons as a consultant for Time
Domain Corporation, a start-up involved in the development
of ultra-wideband communications technology, his family said.
Petroff received numerous
honours and awards throughout his professional career. His most unique
distinction was to be officially declared an Enemy of the People by the
communist regime in Bulgaria, for which he received a death sentence in
absentia. The sentence was later lifted.
He continued his lifelong
interest in boat design and naval architecture by renovating the Gemini II. The
boat also served as the base of operation for Lee Taylor's successful assault
on the world water speed record on Lake Guntersville in 1967. In 1991, he moved
the Gemini II to the US Virgin Islands. It was donated to charity two years ago
and now serves as a floating orphanage in Central America.
In its obituary for Peter
Petroff, The New York Times quoted Ralph Petroff, one of his sons, who said it
was ironic that his father had died a peaceful death.
"He always laughed at
danger and he laughed at death. He should have never made it to his 83rd
birthday, let alone his 20th," Ralph Petroff said. "I guess if you
were to combine Indiana Jones with Thomas Edison, the result would be Peter
Dramatic search for tolerance led great
scientist to USA
"Once here, Petroff found out what
tolerance truly meant. It didn't matter where he came from or what he'd done.
All that mattered was what he could do.
He landed in Florida at a company then
called Radiation, which wisely changed its name to Harris. There, he designed
electronic innards for satellites. A few years later, Petroff was hired by von
Braun, who was among the most vivid testaments to American tolerance. Von Braun
had designed rockets for the Nazis during World War II. In Huntsville, Ala.,
von Braun led the development of rockets for one of the most important projects
in American history: the Gemini and Apollo space programs."
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(October 21, 1919 - February 27, 2003) was a Bulgarian American inventor, engineer, NASA scientist, and adventurer. He was instrumental in the evolution
of the NASA space program. Among his many accomplishments, Petroff developed
the world's first computerized pollution monitoring system and telemetry devices for the world's first weather
and communications satellites.
Petroff helped develop the world's first digital
watch and the world's first wireless heart monitor, and many other important devices and
methods. Petroff founded Care Electronics, Inc. which was acquired by
Electro-Data, Inc. of Garland, Texas in the fall of 1971.
Petroff Point on Brabant Island in Antarctica is
named for Petroff.