The Merwin Kliman Memorial Fund supports research to prevent stillbirth.
Merwin Kliman, the electrical engineer who created the circuit boards for the Voyager computer system, died on September 15, 2019 in Manhasset, NY. He was 86.
The most notable achievement of Mr. Kliman, a Master of Electrical Engineering, was pioneering the use of computers to design computers of very small size. The ability to create computers with very compressed dimensions attracted the attention of a number of cutting-edge companies, including NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories). When Pioneer 11 flew by Jupiter it recorded radiation levels far higher than had been anticipated. This had a direct impact on the Voyager missions because JPL realized that the current Voyager computer design would have been destroyed when it flew by Jupiter. The mission was in jeopardy because JPL needed to significantly increase the shielding around the computer, drastically reducing its size. Kliman proposed a novel solution: put components on both sides of the mother board. “Can that be done?” the engineers at JPL asked. Kliman said, “yes,” and his idea saved the Voyager missions.
Merwin Kliman started working on the computer system for the Voyager project in 1973, culminating in the launch of Voyager 1 on September 5, 1977. His signature is on each of the computer boards in the Voyagers, two computers that will likely outlive our solar system.
Although his work with NASA and JPL ended in 1995, Kliman’s passion for math led him to a second career as a math teacher, first at Nassau Community College and then Hofstra University. While he remained passionate about the planets and outer space for the remainder of his life, his attentions were redirected to inner space. After being peppered with math problems by his father his whole life, his oldest son Harvey—a physician scientist at the Yale School of Medicine—asked Kliman to solve a math problem for him concerning placental volume: generate an equation to calculate the volume of a placenta from a 2-dimensional ultrasound cross section. This equation forms the basis of the Estimated Placental Volume (EPV) method—which father and son coauthored—to detect very small placentas, the number one cause of stillbirth.