Oral Histories

Interview of Simon Ramo

Executive vice-president and co-founder of Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation which specialized in the aerospace and automotive industries.
Entrepreneurs of the West: Simon Ramo
Entrepreneurs of the West
Pease, Christian G.
Ramo, Simon
Persons Present:
Ramo and Pease.
Place Conducted:
Simon Ramo's private offices in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interviews are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Christian G. Pease, intern, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Creative Arts, San Francisco State University; M.B.A., Graduate School of Management, UCLA. Pease prepared for the interview by reviewing articles in the Los Angeles Times from the mid-thirties to the present; the oral history archive at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for information on Ramo from professors or graduates of note; Caltech's weekly newsletter and yearbook; biographies of Howard Hughes, primarily for information on Hughes Aircraft; and Ramos's books. Pease also interviewed over the phone one of Ramos's professors from Caltech and several of Ramos's colleagues at the General Electric Company.
Processing of Interview:
Bernard Galm edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. Ramo reviewed the transcript and made minor corrections and additions. Catherine de Pury, editorial assistant, prepared the table of contents, biographical summary, interview history, and index.
12 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series is a cooperative venture between the Oral History Program and the MBA Program in UCLA's John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management and has been further supported by the Price Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Childhood in Salt Lake City; relations between Jews and Mormons; divides time between violin and mathematics; the Depression and Ramo's career plans; scholarship to California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for graduate work; popular views of technological progress; engineering curriculum at Caltech; encounters with Robert A. Millikan; Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller; advanced mathematical physics; relationship with Professor Royal Sorenson; Professor Frederick Lindvall's engineering problems class; peers at Caltech: Dean Wooldridge, William Fowler, James Wilson McCrae, John Pierce, William Pickering; meets and later marries Virginia Ramo; a job offer from General Electric Company (GE); discrimination against Jews and blacks in the engineering profession; working in GE's General Engineering Laboratory; standard of research and development at GE; "Charles P. Steinmetz Model"; head of GE research team in micro-waves and electron optics; the beginnings of television and FM radio; publishes first book, Fields and Waves in Modern Radio; review of career at GE; U.S. and British radar development; Introduction to Microwaves; on the lecture circuit; work on rocketry and jet engine turbines at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; decision making at GE; the expanding weapons systems business; Hughes Aircraft and Howard Hughes; defense contracts for Hughes; development of air-to-air missiles and the Falcon system; Howard Hughes; Ira Eaker, Charles B. "Tex" Thornton, and Harold L. George arrive at Hughes; Ramo and Wooldridge's contribution to Hughes Aircraft; effects of Howard Hughes's personal problems on management at Hughes Aircraft; meetings with Howard Hughes to discuss larger research facility; evaluating Hughes's management record; Ramo and Wooldridge break with Hughes Aircraft; radar and computer guidance systems for nuclear missiles; Hughes Aircraft meetings with the Defense Department; foundation of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; the start of the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation; Soviet and United States ICBM projects; systems engineering; recruiting for Ramo-Wooldridge; Dean Wooldridge's role in the company; relationship between Ramo-Woold-ridge and subcontractors; the Atlas and Titan missile systems; relationship with Aerospace Corporation; branching out into commercial computer development; merger with Thomp-son Products to form TRW; the ICBM program and its effect on company organization; dealings with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Ramo-Wooldridge company management; Ramo as a public figure; observations on decision making and economic planning at government level; national security as a political issue; imbalance between technological and social progress; favors long-term political and economic planning; the role of government in the economy and society; the Lockheed and Litton mistakes; discussion of the United States aircraft, auto, and steel industries; observations on recruitment policy for today's industry; the entrepreneur's objectives.