Donald Nielson

During his 40 years with SRI International, Donald Nielson played a key role in guiding the organization and in developing some of the institute's most celebrated innovations. Dr. Nielson’s work has centered on communications and its eventual mergence with computing. Seeing the potential of this union in 1972, he and his colleagues moved their communications lab into a computing-centered research environment to help create that new integration. Their achievements include participation in the first internetworked transmission in 1977, recognized as the first true “internet” communication. While an SRI vice president and director of the Computing and Engineering Sciences Division, Dr. Nielson helped launch two of SRI's most successful spin-off companies: Nuance Corporation, a leader in automatic speech recognition, and Intuitive Surgical, Inc., which offers a revolutionary minimally invasive surgical system.

After retiring from management roles in 1998, he documented SRI's origins and unique research accomplishments in his 2004 book, A Heritage of Innovation: SRI's First Half Century.

Dr. Nielson, a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has won a Distinguished Service Medal from the U.S. Air Force and SRI's Mimi Award for fostering the professional growth of co-workers. He is a member of the SRI Alumni Hall of Fame.


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