Donald Oscar Smith

Donald Oscar Smith died at his home in Lexington on June eighth after a long struggle with Parkinsons disease. He was 87. He had lived in Lexington since 1957 when he came to work at Lincoln Lab.

He was born in Santa Fe on February 9, 1925 where his father, Rollin Alanson Smith, was a station master on the Santa Fe RR. His youth was spent in very small towns in New Mexico where he hiked in the mountains developing a lifelong love of nature. His mother, Fern Alvira Green Smith, was a piano teacher,(teaching in Lexington after moving there), and in these little towns they played piano-violin sonatas, building the love of chamber music which he played the rest of his life (and which he passed on to his grandchildren who both play the violin). He was valedictorian of his high school class of twelve in Hurley, NM, and came to MIT where he earned a BS and an MS in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Solid State Physics.

He spent 13 years as a research scientist and Group Leader at Lincoln Laboratory. During this time he published over 50 technical papers in the field of magnetic materials and applications to computer memory elements. The work of Dr. Smith and his group established an international reputation as leaders in this field. In 1969 he was one of the founders of Micro-Bit Corporation and served as its President. Micro-Bit was founded to develop an electron-beam accessed computer memory based on unique optical concepts and solid state materials.

In 1989 Dr. Smith then became a consultant to Photoelectron Corporation, where he worked on the development of a miniature x-ray source to treat cancer and the conducting of clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the x-ray source was first used for the treatment of metastatic brain tumors. Over the course of his career, Dr. Smith was an inventor on 25 issued U.S. patents.

He had many passionate interests, one of which was sailing in Maine with his family and friends. His wife, who had grown up in Brookline, had learned to sail in the Community Boating program on the Charles River and introduced him to sailing. There hadnt been much in the way of water sports in his New Mexican childhood, but he took to sailing right away, and was soon an excellent and daring sailor. He passed on his love of the ocean and boats to all of his children and grandchildren and had many adventures with friends and family cruising the Maine coast in a 34 Pacific Seacraft sailboat.

He was an inspired and energetic gardener, transforming the land around his house into surroundings of beauty and charm. He had learned woodworking as a child and used it as an adult to build all kinds of furniture for the house, tables, beds, chairs, and of course bookcases for the thousands of books he devoured. He built an eight-foot harpsichord with the guidance of Frank Hubbard (who became a world famous harpsichord maker), with whom he played string quartets. When he decided he wanted a screen porch he had the designer plan it so that he could build by himself two attached decks (20x 20) and a screen house with a fireplace that was 30 off the ground and connected to the house by a small bridge.

All his life he had an overwhelming love of art; he was never happier than when he was in a great museum (such as spending a week in the Prado, for example!) For the last fifteen years of his life he researched with great fascination the iconography of the art of the Annunciation. Knowing this, his friends sent copies of Annunciations from wherever they traveled to add to his collection.

His joy in living, his honest gentle wisdom, his caring for those around him will be sorely missed. He leaves his wife Lari (Claire Vivian Wilson)(they had just passed their 62nd wedding anniversary), three children, Wendell Alanson Smith of Bedford, Evan Charles, and Becky (Rebecca Fern Chambers), both of Lexington, and two grandchildren, Gemma Anita Smith of Lexington and Natty (Nathaniel Granitto) Smith of Somerville.

We will gather to celebrate a wonderful life on Saturday, September 1, at 2:00 p.m., First Parish of Bedford, Unitarian, 75 Great Rd. Bedford MA 01730. Please let us know at if you are planning to attend.


The Marriage Bed
by lari smith