A Eulogy to Dr. Jack H. Irving (1920-2008)

by J. Edward Anderson

            I learned today from Jack's wife Florrie that he passed away in November following a long illness.  Among all of the people in the world who have pioneered in the development of PRT, Jack Irving is by far the most outstanding.  Following a comprehensive search, way back in 1973 my Task Force on New Concepts in Urban Transportation, in response to a request from the Minnesota State Legislature, recommended that The Aerospace Corporation PRT system be demonstrated at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.  Without The Aerospace Corporation PRT project, led by Dr. Irving, I doubt that work on PRT could have been sustained.  Many of those involved with PRT today may not be aware that it is thanks to him that PRT systems are being built in England, Sweden, and the Unites Arab Emirates.  As we so often say, we make progress by standing on the shoulders of giants.  Dr. Jack Irving was an outstanding giant. 

            In 1968, Dr. Irving, as Vice President of The Aerospace Corporation, convinced his Board of Directors to invest in the development of PRT.  As a not-for-profit corporation chartered by the U. S. Air Force to manage its ballistic missile programs, The Aerospace Corporation could not manufacture, so its entry into the PRT field was a public service, exercised at a time when there was a strong need to apply their considerable systems engineering talent to urban problems.   In 1970 Jack convinced the White House Office of Science and Technology that PRT should be included in a series of new technology initiatives, which were announced in President Nixon's January 1971 State of the Union message, with PRT heading the list.  This initiative led, in March of 1973, to the following statement to the House Transportation Appropriations Committee by Frank Herringer, Administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration: "A DOT program leading to the development of a short, one-half to one-second headway, high-capacity PRT system will be initiated in fiscal year 1974."  I have copied the page of the Congressional Record on which this statement is made onto page 11 of my paper "An Intelligent Transportation Network System," www.prtinternational.com.  Without the work of Dr. Irving's group at The Aerospace Corporation to back it up, such a statement by the UMTA Administrator could never have been made.

            As a result of heavy lobbying the High-Capacity PRT program did not continue, but as a public service and conscious of the need to record the substantial body of PRT work that had been completed at The Aerospace Corporation, Dr. Irving and his colleagues authored the book Fundamentals of Personal Rapid Transit.  It can be downloaded from www.advancedtransit.net and serves to this day as an important reference work.  Dr. Irving was a founding member of the Advanced Transit Association (ATRA), and continued to follow activities in PRT throughout the remaining decades of his life.  In the year 2000 he celebrated his 80-th birthday with a gala celebration in a beautiful hotel north of San Diego, where the feature was a three-hour lecture he gave on the prominent people in his life in a most interesting and humorous way to the more than 100 guests.  Very few people could have done that successfully, as he did.  Jack Irving was an incredible personality and will be sorely missed.


Last modified: December 23, 2008