George Lawrence Matthaei

Date of Birth

August 28, 1923

Date of Death

October 20, 2020

George Lawrence Matthaei passed away on October 20, 2020, at age 97, after a long, full life.

George was born on August 28, 1923 in Tacoma, Washington, the youngest son of Hazel (Pfeffer) Matthaei and William Peter Matthaei, a Tacoma baking family. George grew up in Tacoma with his older siblings, Margaret and Charles. As a youth he had a keen interest in airplanes and became an accomplished model airplane builder, winning awards in his teens. He developed an interest in aeronautical engineering which would lead him to pursue interests outside the family baking business. He attended the University of Washington until he was called from ROTC to active duty in the army in April 1943. During basic training he became interested in the Radar Unit and managed to join by simply moving into the barracks.

During WWII, George served with an anti-aircraft unit in New Guinea and the Philippines where he transitioned his engineering interest to microwave component design. At the end of the war, he returned to the University of Washington to complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. In 1952 he completed his PhD at Stanford University.

His first PhD position was as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley. During that time, he went on a high Sierra pack trip in Kings Canyon, where he met his future wife, Jean Barker. They were married in 1953, and had two daughters, Jane and Susan.

In 1955, George decided to gain industrial experience at Ramo Wooldridge. Three years later he received an offer to participate in writing a book on microwave filters for the Army Signal Corps while doing research at Stanford Research Institute. The book was published in 1964 and is still in publication today.

In 1964, George became a full professor at UCSB. His tenure saw the growth of the small engineering school into a large college of engineering by the time of his retirement in 1991.

Following his retirement, George joined STI (superconductors) where he worked part-time until age 85. He also joined his wife, Jean, in volunteering as a docent at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, sharing their mutual passion for nature and science.

Much of George’s personal time was spent hiking in and exploring nature, and he often carried a camera to capture its beauty. He had a very unassuming appearance, and a modest, soft-spoken demeanor. He could often be seen sporting a long-sleeved plaid shirt, pants with large and full pockets, a sweater vest, windbreaker, flip-up sunglasses, and a duckbill hat. Yet he was an accomplished microwave researcher, could be a jokester, and looked quite dapper in his trademark bowtie when attending more formal events. He was an exceptionally thoughtful, intelligent, and kind man who will be missed by everyone who knew him.

George is survived by his daughters, Jane Bell (Douglas) and Susan Larsen (James); grandchildren, Laura and Lisa Bell, Rebecca Wendlandt (Jansen), Matthew Larsen (Jennifer); and great grandchildren, Taevyn and Daylen Wendlandt and Gunnar Larsen.

A memorial service will be scheduled in the near future.


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