Richard C. Kirby

Employed by Western Union at age 14 and learned telegraphy

Radio Engineer - Served in the U.S. Signal Corps during WWII

Elected ITU Official



Passed Away in 2012 - Scroll Down for Obituary  

Décès en 2012 - Avis de décès au bas de la page  



Richard C. Kirby


Obituary  -  Avis de décès

Richard C. Kirby

1922 - 2012


Death of a Former ITU Elected Official

From:         Bob Jones

Date:         February 3, 2012

Subject:     Richard Kirby


Dear friends and colleagues,


I just learned that we have lost another former ITU elected official.  Dick and I were born on the same day, November 22nd, (but not the same year!).  Jan and I had exchanged Christmas cards with Dick and Ardis but in the last few years, our letters, cards and e mails went unanswered and people I asked about Dick didn't seem to know anything.


Greetings from Geneva where I have passed this information on to the current BR Director, Francois Rancy, and former Director, Valery Timofeev, suggesting this sad news be mentioned in this afternoon's WRC plenary.




Richard C. Kirby, Sr. — Sequim, Wash.


Richard Cyril Kirby, Sr. died at home at age 89, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.

He was born to Joseph Cyril Kirby and Isabelle Clare McGovern in Galesburg, Ill., Nov. 22, 1922. Raised in Rochester, he graduated from Rochester High School in 1939. He was employed by Western Union at age 14, learned telegraphy and earned his first Amateur Radio license. He married the love of his life, Ardis Elaine Oitto, in Chicago in 1944. Engineering studies at the University of Minnesota were interrupted by WWII. In 1945 He was assigned as First Lieutenant to the Signal Office of General Headquarters, in Leyte, Philippines and later Japan, where he authored the study and publication of Japanese Wartime research and development in Ionospheric prediction. Kirby graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1951.

Kirby’s lifelong passion has been radio telecommunications. International radio communication standards became an important part of his career when in 1948 he joined the U.S. National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. He worked in the Central Radio Propagation Division where he coordinated International Telecommunications Union studies in Frequency Management for worldwide high frequency (HF). In 1955 Kirby was appointed Chief of the Ionospheric Section at the newly built NBS and the family moved to Boulder, Colo. Kirby became Chief of the NBS Radio Systems Division in 1959. He was an NBS physicist and research engineer, contributing to the development of communications systems using scatter propagation.

From 1965 to 1968 he was head of the Institute’s Ionospheric Telecommunications Laboratory. He served as Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences, and from 1971-1974 as Associate Director of US Department of Commerce, Office of Telecommunications., Washington, D.C., and Boulder. Kirby served as Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Denver 1969-1974. During his tenure at NBS he served as Chief of Ionospheric Research Section, Radio Propagation Physics Division, and Chief of Radio Communications Systems Division.

In 1974 Kirby was elected to the position of Director of the Institute of Telecommunication Sciences in Boulder, and Director of the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR). During his tenure he worked with others to develop global standards for HDTV, digital sound broadcasting and mobile and satellite communications.

In 1974 Mr. Kirby was elected as the Director of the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) of the International Telecommunication Union and the Kirby family moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Kirby remained Director until his retirement in 1995. Following retirement he continued as a Consultant in International Communications.

Kirby was a Life Fellow Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, former Chairman of the IEEE Communications Technology, and a member of the editorial board of IEEE Spectrum. During his career, Kirby was awarded many honors some of which were: 1956, US Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award for outstanding contribution in the science of radio wave propagation; 1968, Second US Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award for outstanding contribution in the field of telecommunications in the Federal Government; 1970, Fellow, IEEE for leadership in telecommunication research and for contributions to radio-propagation; 1979, IEEE Don McClellan Meritorious Service Award; 1981, IEEE Award in International Telecommunications; 1983, Award of Regents, University of Minnesota, for Outstanding Achievement, Highest Ho; 1992, International Telecommunication Union, Silver Medal; 1992, Presidential Award, Poland; SMPTE 1993, Emmy for Outstanding efforts in Telecommunications and Broadcasting Technology; and 2000, IEEE 3rd Millennium Award for Outstanding Achievements and Contribution.

Kirby belonged to and served on the boards of numerous professional organizations during his career and authored several technical articles, studies and books.

Kirby is survived by his wife of 67 years, Ardis. He was a kind and loving father to seven children, R.C. Kirby, Jr. (Pat), Kate Sullivan (Chuck), Elizabeth Kirby (David), Dr. Andrew Kirby (Martha), Christine Bourguignon (Philippe) and Dr. Michael Kirby (Rachel). He was a loving grandfather to 20 children and several great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter, Eleanor and brother, Tom Kirby.

He was a lover of classical music, travel and all things radio. His ultimate nature of tenderness and continued inquisitiveness endured throughout his life. His boundless intellect, infectious stories and above all else his devotedness to his wife and family will be greatly missed.


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