Simon Ramo

Father of the ICBM

Simon "Si" Ramo (May 7, 1913 – June 27, 2016) was an American physicist, engineer, and business leader. He led development of microwave and missile technology and is sometimes known as the father of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Whether what you manage is a business, hospital, university department, government agency or even a symphony orchestra or dancing school, we suspect you will find it advisable to try to prepare ahead for what might happen in the future.


  • We are in rapid transition today to a new world which threatens to be dominated by technological advance. In that new World. (1) man will have learned so much about nature's store of energy and its release that he will have the ability to virtually destroy civilization; (2) production, communication and transportation will all be "automatic" --these operations of man's material world will have become so vast and complex that they will have to proceed with a minimum of participation by man, his muscles, brains and senses; and (3) man will conquer space.
  • Well, Benny, now that we know the thing can fly, all we have to do is improve its range a bit.
    • Ramo (1950s, quotes in: Hantos, Peter. Software Technology Readiness Assessment. (2010).
    • During a series of key experiments of ballistic missiles in the 1950s at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at which Ramo and Air Force General Bernard Schriever were observers, test rockets kept blowing up on their launch pads. The quote is Ramo's comment, after one missile rose about 6 inches before toppling over and exploding.
  • In April 1946, when I came to Hughes Aircraft to institute high-technology research and development, it was far from the place it was to become. Howard Hughes, I was informed, rarely came around. When he did show up, it was to take up one or another trivial issue. He would toss off detailed directions, for instance, on what to do next about a few old airplanes decaying out in the yard or what kind of seat covers to buy for the company-owned Chevrolets, or he would say he wanted some pictures of clouds taken from an airplane. An accountant from Hughes Tool Co. ((started by Howard's father)) had the title of general manager but was there only to sign checks. A few of Howard's flying buddies were on the payroll, using assorted fanciful titles like some in Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado, but apparently did next to nothing. A lawyer was on hand to process contracts, but there were practically none. In addition to the Spruce Goose flying freighter, a mammoth eight-engine plywood seaplane that barely managed to fly even once, there was an experimental Navy reconnaissance plane under development (which, with Hughes at the controls, later crashed, almost killing him). The contracts for both planes had been canceled. Perhaps, I said to myself, this is one of those unforeseeable lucky opportunities. Why not use Hughes Aircraft as a base to create a new and needed defense electronics supplier?
  • My final word about editing. I was to appear on the cover of a business magazine, and the writer who came to interview me was intrigued with engineers, scientists, PhDs founding and running companies. It was somewhat more unusual back in those days than now, although it was not without ample precedents in the past. So the question he put to me right away starting the interview was, "Would you say, Dr. Ramo, that engineers make the best managers?" And I said, "Engineers make the best engineers." It may be that some engineers will have managerial talents, and be in the right place at the right time, just as may be true of lawyers or accountants or salesmen, or tax experts or whatever. Now, on the magazine then, here was this picture of me, and here was this quote: "Engineers make the best engineers." Well, someone, before the cover actually got out, knew that that was a mistake. Obviously that had been a misprint. So looking at the text, and seeing the question that was asked of me, he changed it to: "Engineers make the best managers." "I quote Dr. Ramo on engineers." All right.
    • An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 27 February 1995; Republished at Oral-History:Simon Ramo, at, accessed May 30, 2014.
  • Whether what you manage is a business, hospital, university department, government agency or even a symphony orchestra or dancing school, we suspect you will find it advisable to try to prepare ahead for what might happen in the future.
    • Simon Ramo, Ronald Sugar, : A Structured Approach to Shaping the Future of Your Business. (2009), p. 8
  • Obama can't announce that man-in-space is out of date because of the political consequences... Senators and congressmen from Florida, Texas and Alabama (centers of space-program jobs) would give him so much trouble he can't cancel it.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about:
  • 1988 Review about Ramo's "The Business of science." in Engineering & Science (1988): 37-38.