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Former ITU-R Director Dick Kirby, W0LCT/HB9BOA (SK)


Richard “Dick” Kirby, W0LCT/HB9BOA, passed away on January 26. He was 89. In 1974, Kirby -- an ARRL Life Member -- was elected Director of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) International Radio Consultative Committee; he served as Director until his retirement in 1995. In 1992, under Kirby’s tenure as Director, the Committee became the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R). One of three sectors at the ITU, ITU-R is responsible for matters concerning radio communication. Its role is to manage the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources, and to develop standards for radiocommunication systems with the objective of ensuring the effective use of the spectrum. While at the ITU, Kirby also served as President of the International Amateur Radio Club, 4U1ITU, the Amateur Radio station at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kirby learned telegraphy between runs as a Western Union messenger in 1936; he became a licensed radio amateur in 1938. His lifelong passion was radio telecommunications. International radio communication standards became an important part of his career when in 1948, he joined the US National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) in Washington, DC. Kirby worked in the Central Radio Propagation Division where he coordinated ITU studies in frequency management for worldwide HF.

In 1955, Kirby was appointed chief of the Ionospheric Section at the newly built Bureau of Standards in Boulder, Colorado, and in 1959, he became chief of the Bureau of Standards’ Radio Systems Division where he contributed to the development of communications systems using scatter propagation. While at the Bureau of Standards, Kirby served as Chief of the Ionospheric Research Section and the Radio Propagation Physics Division, as well as the Chief of the Radio Communications Systems Division.

From 1965 to 1968, he was head of the Institute’s Ionospheric Telecommunications Laboratory. He was elected Director of the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences, and from 1971-1974, as Associate Director of the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications in Washington, DC and Boulder. During his time in Boulder, Kirby was also an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at the University of Denver.

Also in 1974, Kirby was elected Director of the ITU’s International Radio Consultative Committee, now ITU-R. During his tenure, he worked with others to develop global standards for high-definition television, digital sound broadcasting and mobile and satellite communications. Kirby remained Director until his retirement in 1995. Following retirement, he continued as a consultant in international communications.

During his career, Kirby was awarded many honors, including: The US Department of Commerce Gold Medal for outstanding contribution in the science of radio wave propagation in 1956; a second US Department of Commerce Gold Medal for outstanding contribution in the field of telecommunications in the federal government in 1968; named IEEE Fellow in 1970 for leadership in telecommunications research and for contributions to radio propagation; the IEEE Don McClellan Meritorious Service Award in 1979; the IEEE Award in International Telecommunications in 1981; the University of Minnesota Award of Regents for Outstanding Achievement, Highest Honors; the ITU’s Silver Medal in 1992; an Emmy from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers for outstanding efforts in telecommunications and broadcasting technology in 1993, and the IEEE Third Millennium Medal for outstanding achievements and contributions in 2000.

Services were held January 31 at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sequim, Washington. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association , North Tower, 100 W Harrison St, N200, Seattle, WA 98119.



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