|Walter P. Kistler|
|Institutions||Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works, Bell Aircraft|
|Alma mater||University of Geneva, ETH Zurich|
|Known for||Multiple inventions, Kistler Group|
Albert F. Sperry Award (issued by the ISA)
Walter P. Kistler is a physicist, inventor, and philanthropist, born in 1918 in Biel, Switzerland. Kistler is a life member of the Swiss Physical Society and a member of AIAA and ISA, which presented him the Life Achievement Award in 2000. He is listed in American Men of Science, Who’s Who in Aviation, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, and Who’s Who in the World. He holds patents on more than 50 inventions in the scientific and industrial instrumentation fields, and has published a number of papers published in scientific and trade journals.
Education and first inventions
Kistler studied sciences at the University of Geneva and earned a Master’s degree in physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. While subsequently head of the Instrumentation Lab at the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works, Winterthur, he pioneered a new measurement technology using Piezo-electric quartz crystals as the transduction element in accelerometers, load cells, and pressure gauges. This new technology was made possible by Kistler’s invention of a charge amplifier that could handle the very high impedance signals obtained from such sensors. For these achievements, he would in 1983 receive the prestigious Albert F. Sperry Award from the Instrument Society of America (ISA).
In 1951, Kistler moved to the United States and joined Bell Aerosystems, Buffalo, New York. At Bell, he invented and developed a pulse constraint servo-accelerometer that was later used in the guidance of the Agena space rocket. For this work, he received the 1968 Aerospace Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), recognizing “his pioneering effort in the development of high-performance aerospace instrumentation.” In 1957, Kistler founded Kistler Instrument Corporation in order to further pursue his work in quartz instrumentation. Under Kistler's supervision, his company made several major innovations, some of which would be put to use in the Apollo manned spaceflights, and became a world leader in the development of quartz sensors.
Kistler sold the company, which currently (2010) is known as Kistler Group, in 1970 and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he founded with his partner Charles Morse the Kistler-Morse Corporation. Kistler supervised and designed a number of innovations in sensors while at this company, and in 1982 he was named an ISA Fellow for his contributions in the field of sensor development. In the 1960s, Kistler developed a shorthand writing system that he called Steno, and initiated a project called The Steno Trust in 1997 to teach the system for applications in education, industry, and law. In Kistler's view, the greatest application of Steno is in the writing of journals.
Later life and the Foundation For the Future
In his later life, Kistler played a central role as Director or Chairman in the startup of several high-technology companies. These companies include Kistler Products, SRS, ICI, Interpoint, Paroscientific, and SPACEHAB, Inc. In 1993 he co-founded Kistler Aerospace Corporation “to pursue his life-long dream of designing and building the world's first totally reusable space vehicle,” hoping to reduce the cost of access to space by 80 to 90%.
Though Kistler’s life was predominantly spent in science and engineering, he was always concerned about where humanity was headed, and in 1996 he co-founded (with Bob Citron) the Foundation For the Future. The Foundation’s goal is to “increase knowledge about the factors that may have a major impact on the long-term future of humanity.” 
Foundation For the Future programs include awarding the annual Kistler Prize; awarding of other Walter P. Kistler prizes to recognize book authors, film producers, or teachers who promote scientific knowledge and understanding related to the long-term future of humanity; funding research grants (up to US $25,000) to support scholars undertaking research directly related to better understanding the factors affecting the long-term future of humanity; hosting/sponsoring conferences to bring together scientists and scholars from multiple disciplines and various parts of the world for discussions focused on the thousand-year future of our species and our planet; and undertaking public awareness concerning the long-term future of the human species. A new program established in fall 2009 is the Walter P. Kistler Lecture Series, which brings to the public, free of charge, direct access to expert information on urgent issues facing humanity today and into the future. 
Hundreds of scholars have participated in Foundation For the Future seminars and workshops. Here are comments from a few of them:
“The conference was especially valuable for bringing together exceedingly bright persons from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary specializations to think seriously and provocatively about the future.” — Professor Howard Wiarda, University of Massachusetts.
“If the intention of the organizers was to make people who have never thought about the far future do so, then it succeeded gloriously with me, and I have not stopped since. I learned how hopeless we are at predicting the near future – let alone a thousand years ahead – but how important it is for us to try.” — Dr. Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine.
“I learned that it’s important to share your ideas with your peers and even other people that you come into contact with because that way you actually get a holistic view of what everyone thinks and you get a more rounded view of what the problem is and you can, as a group, think of ways to come up with a resolution for it.” — Albert, high school student.
“I have been devoted to futures studies for almost 30 years, and this is my great pleasure to have this opportunity to meet so many futurists at the same time. I have learned a great deal because this is an interdisciplinary approach, and it touches politics, education, economics, sociology, anthropology, etc. It will be most helpful that we can widen our perspectives.” — Clement C.P. Chang, Tamkang University, Taipei
On his concern for the future of humanity, Kistler has written the following:
“When I consider what has happened in the years since I was a boy [...] we have deciphered the genetic code and are now able to study the innermost structure of a human being. We have invented the transistor and have developed a computer-based civilization replete with computer games and interactive television. We have even conquered space and humans have walked on the moon. However, few people are aware of the most drastic development that has taken place in humanity’s condition, a development of portentous consequences. From the status of a child or teenager, humanity suddenly became an adult in the 20th century. Science and technology have given us so much power that we now control our own destiny. A position of control has its consequences. It entails great responsibility. Unfortunately, we humans don’t seem to be aware of this.” 
The Kistler Prize, created in 1999, includes a cash award of US $100,000 and a gold medallion, and is awarded annually to recognize original contributions “to the understanding of the connection between the human genome and human society, especially those contributions stemming from research conducted with courage and conviction despite opposition from peers or the public.”  The recipients have been:
- 2000 Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University, for the introduction of biological thought into the social sciences to create the field of sociobiology.
- 2001 Dr. Richard Dawkins, Oxford University, for his work in the ethology of the gene, redirecting the focus of the “levels of selection” debate from the individual animal as the unit of evolution to the genes. 
- 2002 Dr. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Stanford School of Medicine, for his work tracing historical migrations by analyzing the genetic differences between humans living today.
- 2003 Dr. Arthur R. Jensen, University of California, Berkeley, for scientific research on human intelligence, establishing the genetic basis for individual differences in intelligence.
- 2004 Dr. Vincent M. Sarich, University of California, Berkeley, for discoveries in molecular dating, determining that humans and the great apes diverged much more recently than previously believed.
- 2005 Dr. Thomas J. Bouchard Jr., Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research, for research regarding human individual differences caused by genetic and environmental influences.
- 2006 Dr. Doreen Kimura, Simon Fraser University, for research and cataloguing of sex differences in cognition and developing proximate and evolutionary explanations for many of them.
- 2007 Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic Genographic Project, for a body of work in the science of population genetics, culminating in a five-year effort to map humanity’s genetic journey to populate the planet.
- 2008 Dr. J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute, for pioneering work in genomic research including rapid gene discovery, the first sequencing of a genome of a living species, and the first publication of a genome sequence of one human individual.
- 2009 Dr. Svante Pääbo, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, for a body of work with ancient DNA, beginning in 1984 with the demonstration of DNA survival in a 2,400-year-old mummy and leading to a draft version of the complete Neanderthal genome.
- 2010 Dr. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology, for creating the technological foundation for genomics and proteomics through the invention of five groundbreaking instruments and for explicating the potentialities of genome and proteome research into the future.
The Walter P. Kistler Book Award, established in 2003, recognizes authors who make important contributions to the public’s understanding of factors that may impact the long-term future of humanity. The award includes a cash prize of US $10,000 and a certificate. The recipients have been:
- 2003 Dr. Gregory Stock for Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future, about technologies that will enable parents to make choices about their children’s appearance, capabilities, and health risks.
- 2004 Dr. Spencer Wells for The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, which explains the science that enabled Dr. Wells to trace the genealogy of humankind by focusing on genetic markers on the Y-chromosome.
- 2005 Dr. Steven Pinker for The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, addressing the fears associated with acknowledging a universal, biologically based human nature.
- 2006 Dr. William H. Calvin for A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change, which addresses the broad sweep of hominid history and the likely impacts to it of abrupt climate change.
- 2007 Dr. Eric Chaisson for Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos, which leads the reader through all known forms of evolution, for all of known time, partitioning the arrow of time over billions of years into seven epochs.
- 2008 Dr. Christopher B. Stringer for Homo britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain, which explicates the epic history of life in Britain dating as far back as 700,000 years and the role of climate change in at least seven failed efforts at human colonization.
- 2009 Dr. David Archer for The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate, which discusses the scientific realities of humankind’s continuing increases in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In 2007 the inaugural Walter P. Kistler Science Documentary Film Award was presented to Thomas Levenson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for the four-part miniseries Origins. Also in 2007, the first Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher Award was presented to Paula Fraser, Teacher of fifth-graders in the PRISM Program, Bellevue School District, Washington.