Curtis Carlson

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Curtis R. Carlson
SRI Curtis R Carlson 2010 cropped.jpg
Born 1945 (age 68–69)
Nationality American
Institutions SRI International
Sarnoff Corporation
Alma mater Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Rutgers University
Notable awards Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award
Otto H. Schade Award
For founder of Carlson Companies, see Curt Carlson.

Curtis Raymond Carlson (born 1945) is the president and CEO of SRI International and a prominent technologist.

A physics graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and PhD student at in geophysical fluid dynamics from Rutgers University, he joined Sarnoff Corporation after graduation and worked through the ranks. While at Sarnoff, Carlson led teams that developed the HDTV standard and designed a system to assess broadcast image quality, both of which were awarded a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award.

In 1998, Carlson was named CEO of SRI International, a post previously held by William P. Sommers. For his contributions, Carlson was awarded Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award in 2002 and the Society for Information Display's Otto H. Schade Award in 2006.


Carlson earned his B.S. in physics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1967 and a Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics from Rutgers University in 1973.[1]


Sarnoff Corporation[edit]

Starting in 1973, Carlson participated in research and development in the field of imaging systems, working with the RCA Sarnoff Laboratory.[2] In 1981, Carlson was named the Director of the Image Quality and Perception Research Group and Vice President of the laboratory in 1990. In 1995, Carlson became Executive Vice President of Sarnoff's Interactive Systems Division.[1] He also led the 1997 team that developed the HDTV program that became the US standard, and the 2000 team that designed a system to assess broadcast image quality. Both of these teams were awarded a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for their accomplishments.[1]

SRI International[edit]

He has served as the president of SRI International since 1998,[2] and oversaw Sarnoff Corporation's full integration into SRI in January 2011.[3][4]

Carlson is known for a term known as "Carlson's Law", coined by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to describe Carlson's balance between autocracy and democracy in an organization: "In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb."[5][6]

Memberships and awards[edit]

Carlson has served on several government task forces including the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the Army Science Board and the Defense Science Board task force on bio-chemical defense. He is a member of the Highlands Group[1], which makes recommendations to government officials regarding technological developments of interest to the government.[7] In 2010, he was named to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.[8][9] He also serves on the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation, and is a council member on the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable, a joint body of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.[2]

In 2002, Carlson was awarded Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement.[7] Carlson has been involved in establishing WPI's Silicon Valley Project Center.[10] He has given several commencement speeches, including at WPI on May 20, 2006; at Stevens Institute of Technology on May 22, 2008; and at University of Richmond on May 8, 2011.[1][11] He received the Otto H. Schade Award from the Society for Information Display in June 2006.[1][12][13] In December 2012, Carlson was named a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.[14][15]

Carlson has received honorary degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Stevens Institute of Technology and Kettering University.[2][16] Carlson is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.[2][1]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Carlson, Curtis (1978). Visibility of displayed information. 
  • Carlson, Curtis; Wilmot, William (2006). Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want. ISBN 0-307-33669-7. , named in Bloomberg Businessweek's Best Business Books of 2006.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Curtis Carlson, Innovator and Business Leader, is 2006 Commencement Speaker at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)". Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 2006-04-20. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Curtis R. Carlson: President and Chief Executive Officer". SRI International. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  3. ^ "SRI International completes integration of Sarnoff Corporation". SRI International. 2011-01-03. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  4. ^ "SRI International Sarnoff". SRI International. Archived from the original on 2012-02-06. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  5. ^ Friedman, Thomas L (2011-06-05). "Advice for China". New York Times. p. WK8. Retrieved 2011-11-18. 
  6. ^ ""Carlson's Law" – an interview with SRI International President & CEO Dr. Curtis Carlson". San Francisco Chronicle. 2011-08-29. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  7. ^ a b "Curtis Carlson Honored with WPI's Robert H. Goddard Award". Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 2002-08-21. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  8. ^ "SRI International President and CEO Curtis R. Carlson Named to National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship". SRI International. 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  9. ^ "First Meeting Minutes". Economic Development Administration. 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  10. ^ "Silicon Valley Project Students Awake to Sleep Lab Needs". WPI West. Dec 2002. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  11. ^ "Curtis Carlson chosen to give graduation speech". The Collegian. 2011-04-07. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  12. ^ "SRI International CEO, Curtis Carlson, Receives 2006 Otto Schade Prize from the Society for Information Display". SRI International. 2006-06-09. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  13. ^ "Otto Schade Prize". Society for Information Display. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  14. ^ "National Academy of Inventors and SRI International Announce NAI Charter Fellows". SRI International. 2012-12-18. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  15. ^ "NAI Charter Fellows". National Academy of Inventors. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  16. ^ "Kettering University Honorary Degree Recipients". Kettering University. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  17. ^ "Best Business Books of 2006". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2006-12-18. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 

External links[edit]