Biography and History

Lawrence Rauch was a Princeton University graduate student (Ph.D. Mathematics, 1949) and a pioneer in the field of radio telemetry.

Rauch was born on May 1, 1919 in Los Angeles, California. He was the first child of Mable Chalfont Thompson and James Lee Rauch. His parents had moved to California from Southern Illinois around 1910, and his father worked as an electrician in the burgeoning Hollywood film industry. His mother, a vaudeville performer in her youth, later wrote and published articles and novels on a variety of subjects.

Rauch attended public schools in Los Angeles. He was highly interested in electronics at a young age and built his own amateur radio station with a short wave receiver and a transmitter while in junior high school. In high school he took the usual courses in the sciences, never distinguishing himself. In later years Rauch relished telling the story of how his high school math teacher advised him not to study mathematics in college, due to lack of talent.

In 1937 Rauch enrolled in the University of Southern California (USC). By his own admission, he “really wasn’t much interested in people, I was interested in things.” He had a double major at USC in mathematics and physics. He excelled in his studies and was invited to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year, a rare honor. He completed his coursework at USC a semester early, in January 1941. He obtained a fellowship as an entering graduate student in the Department of Mathematics at Princeton. Since his course work at USC was finished in January of 1941 and he would not go to Princeton until the fall, he obtained a teaching fellowship at Cornell in the physics department for the spring term.

In the early years at Princeton, Rauch lived in the Graduate College’s Fourteenth Entry. John Tukey, Rauch’s mentor during this time, lived nearby as did Richard Feynman. World War II affected Rauch’s academic experience at Princeton. He was granted the JSK fellowship in 1942, but due to his involvement in war research had to turn it down. Throughout the war, Rauch worked on defense related projects-- which had the added benefit of keeping him out of the draft.

In 1942 and early 1943, Rauch was involved with the electronics work in the investigation of a more stable way to split an atom. In the latter part of 1943 Rauch started his long term war project at Princeton which involved radio telemetry. He worked with Dr. Myron Nichols of the Princeton Physics Department on this project, and the two became pioneers in the field of radio telemetry as well as life-long friends. Nichols and Rauch led the development of the first high speed electronic telemetry system ever built and were the first to use it in connection with jet aircraft flights.

In July 1946, Rauch took the telemetry system he developed at Princeton to Bikini Atoll for the Operation Crossroads test of atomic bombs. During his time at Princeton, Rauch was appointed instructor in the mathematics department. He taught a number of undergraduate courses as well as special courses for military programs. Rauch did his doctoral research and thesis under Solomon Lefschetz. He received his PhD in mathematics in 1949.

During his time at Cornell and Princeton, Rauch wrote regularly to his family in Los Angeles. Over 210 of these letters, dozens of photographs, and Princeton ephemera were saved by Rauch and his parents. The letters and other materials reveal Rauch’s personality, his academic ambitions, and his day to day life at Princeton.

After Princeton, Rauch went to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he provided leadership in a number of vital positions. He was chairman (1950-52) of the Nuclear Engineering Program and chairman (1958-59) of the Management Science Program. He was a founder and first chairman (1952-63) of the Instrumentation Engineering Program, and became chairman (1971-76) of its prestigious successor, the Computer, Information and Control Engineering Program.

In 1977 Rauch retired from Michigan, assuming the post of chief technologist, Telecommunications Science and Engineering Division, at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He retired again from this position in 1985 to his home in Los Angeles yet he remained active as a consultant for JPL on many NASA related projects until 2000.

Rauch co-wrote the first book on Radio Telemetry with his former Princeton associate, Myron Nichols, in 1954. He also authored many publications and articles in the field.

Rauch’s awards included Outstanding Contribution to the Telemetering Field at the National Telemetering Conference/London in 1960; the Donald P. Eckman award for Distinguished Achievement in Education; and the Pioneer Award at the International Telemetering Conference/USA in 1985. His achievements include a patent for the development of the first electronic time-division multiplex radio telemetering system, of pre-detection recording.

Rauch married his first wife, Yvonne Randall, in 1944 while at Princeton. They were divorced ten years later. No children were born to their marriage. In 1959, Rauch married Norma Cable in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They had two sons: Lauren and Maury. Rauch died in 2007 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: From the finding aid for AC393

  • Lawrence Rauch Papers. circa 1932-1951 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC393

    Lawrence Rauch was a Princeton University graduate student (Ph.D. Mathematics, 1949) and a pioneer in the field of radio telemetry. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written home by Rauch during his time as a graduate student at Princeton from 1941 to 1949, which document Princeton academics and student life as well as Rauch's work in radio telemetry, and include references to his defense work for the United States government.

  • Lawrence Rauch Papers. circa 1932-1951 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC393

    Lawrence Rauch was a Princeton University graduate student (Ph.D. Mathematics, 1949) and a pioneer in the field of radio telemetry. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written home by Rauch during his time as a graduate student at Princeton from 1941 to 1949, which document Princeton academics and student life as well as Rauch's work in radio telemetry, and include references to his defense work for the United States government.