Robert H. Rines, an internationally recognized patent lawyer, inventor, musical composer and Loch Ness monster hunter who lectured at MIT from 1963 until his retirement last year, died on Sunday, Nov. 1. He was 87.
Born in 1922 in Boston, Rines received his bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT in 1942. At the Institute, he developed his first contributions to the emerging technology of high-resolution image-scanning radar. After serving as a radar officer in World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters, Rines received a law degree from Georgetown University while serving as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office.
He returned to New England after law school, joined his father’s law practice, and began lecturing on patent law at Harvard. While at Harvard, Rines wrote “Create or Perish,” a book that would later became the cornerstone text for two classes — 6.901 and 6.931 —that he would teach at MIT.
At the encouragement of EECS Professor Lan Jen Chu and several other professors under whom he studied at MIT, Rines transferred his teaching to the Institute in 1963. His two classes focused on using intellectual property to start new companies and nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation. He taught his final class in the spring of 2008.
“We've lost a tremendous advocate for those who have deep technical training as a first base, and go on to shape law and policy around the globe,” Dedric Carter, assistant dean of engineering at MIT, said this week.
During his 45 years of teaching at MIT, Rines continued his active research and inventing, earning more than 100 patents — many for electronic apparatus to improve the resolution of radar and sonar scanning. The scanning systems used to locate the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck were dependent on Rines’ prototypes, as were medical ultrasound imaging systems.
In 1963, Rines founded the Academy of Applied Science, a private, non-profit organization devoted to the promotion of science and technology education at all levels. In 1973, he founded the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.— now among the country’s foremost institutes for the study of intellectual property law. In 1994, Rines was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Beyond teaching, mentoring, inventing and running an award-winning patent practice, Rines pursued scientific knowledge and discovery throughout his life. As documented by Public Television’s Nova series, Rines joined MIT’s Harold “Doc” Edgerton in the 1970s in a bid to provide evidence of the Loch Ness creature in Scotland.
Using Rines’ inventions in radar and sonar imaging and Edgerton’s stroboscopic photography, they were able to produce a partial image of the Ness creature’s outline and size, but the findings were not conclusive. Still, Rines maintained that he had, in fact, caught a glimpse of the creature. “I had the misfortune of seeing one of these things with my own eyes,” he told The Boston Globe in 2008.
Rines also wrote music for more than 10 Broadway and off-Broadway shows. He shared an Emmy in 1987 for his composition for the television production of “Hizzoner The Mayor.”
In addition to his wife, Joanne Hayes-Rines, Rines leaves two sons, Justice of New York and Robert of Concord, N.H.; a daughter, Suzi Rines Toth of Duxbury, Mass.; a stepdaughter, Laura Hayes-Heuer of Washington; and four grandchildren.
A Memorial Service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, in the Palm Garden Room of the Boston Marriott Long Wharf.