Martin Cooper (inventor)

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Martin Cooper
Martin Cooper, Two Antennas, October 2010.jpg
Cooper in 2007
Born (1928-12-26) December 26, 1928 (age 92)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
EducationIllinois Institute of Technology Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Inventor
  • Entrepreneur
  • Executive
Known forFirst to make mobile phone call
Founder & CEO of ArrayComm
Co-founder and chairman of Dyna LLC
(m. 1991)
AwardsMarconi Prize (2013)

Martin "Marty" Cooper (born December 26, 1928) is an American engineer. He is a pioneer in the wireless communications industry, especially in radio spectrum management, with eleven patents in the field.[1][2]

While at Motorola in the 1970s, Cooper invented the first handheld cellular mobile phone (distinct from the car phone) in 1973 and led the team that developed it and brought it to market in 1983.[3][4] He is considered the "father of the (handheld) cell phone"[1][3][5][6] and is also cited as the first person in history to make a handheld cellular phone call in public.[7]

Cooper is co-founder of numerous communications companies with his wife and business partner Arlene Harris;[8] He is co-founder and current Chairman of Dyna LLC, in Del Mar, California. Cooper also sits on committees supporting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission[9] and the United States Department of Commerce.

In 2010, Cooper was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering for leadership in the creation and deployment of the cellular portable hand-held telephone.


Martin was born in Chicago to Ukrainian Jewish Immigrants.[10][11][12] He graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1950. After graduating he served as a submarine officer during the Korean War.[1] In 1957, he earned his master's degree from IIT in electrical engineering and in 2004 received an honorary doctorate degree from IIT. He serves on the university's board of trustees.



Cooper left his first job at Teletype Corporation in Chicago in 1954 and joined Motorola, Inc. (Schaumburg, Illinois) as a senior development engineer in the mobile equipment group. He developed products including the first cellular-like portable handheld police radio system, produced for the Chicago police department in 1967. [13][14]

By the early 1970s, Cooper headed Motorola's communications systems division.[7] Here he conceived of the first portable cellular phone in 1973 and led the 10-year process of bringing it to market.[5] Car phones had been in limited use in large U.S. cities since the 1930s but Cooper championed cellular telephony for more general personal, portable communications.[15] He believed the cellular phone should be a "personal telephone – something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number; not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person."[7] While it has been stated Cooper's vision for the device was inspired by Captain James T. Kirk using his Communicator on the television show Star Trek,[16] Cooper himself later said that his actual inspiration was Dick Tracy's wrist radio.[17]

Top management at Motorola supported Cooper's mobile phone concept, investing $100 million between 1973 and 1993 before any revenues were realized.[18] Cooper assembled a team that designed and assembled a product in less than 90 days. That original handset, called the DynaTAC 8000x (DYNamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) weighed 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg), measured 10 inches (25 cm) long and was dubbed "the brick" or "the shoe" phone.[19] A very substantial part of the DynaTAC was the battery, which weighed four to five times more than a modern cell phone.[4] The phone had only 30 minutes of talk time before requiring a 10-hour recharge but according to Cooper, "The battery lifetime wasn't really a problem because you couldn't hold that phone up for that long!" By 1983 and after four iterations, the handset was reduced to half its original weight.

Cooper is the lead inventor named on "radio telephone system" filed on October 17, 1973, with the U.S. Patent Office and later issued as U.S. Patent 3,906,166.[20] John Francis Mitchell, Motorola's Chief of Portable Communication Products (and Cooper's Manager and Mentor) and the engineers who worked for Cooper and Mitchell are also named on the patent.

On April 3, 1973, Cooper and Mitchell demonstrated two working phones to the media and to passers-by prior to walking into a scheduled press conference at the New York City Hilton in midtown Manhattan. Standing on Sixth avenue near the Hilton, Cooper made the first handheld cellular phone call in public from the prototype DynaTAC. The call connected him to a base station Motorola had installed on the roof of the Burlington House (now the AllianceBernstein Building) and into the AT&T land-line telephone system.[13] Reporters and onlookers watched as Cooper dialed the number of his chief competitor Dr. Joel S. Engel at AT&T.[21] "Joel, this is Marty. I'm calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone."[22] That public demonstration landed the DynaTAC on the July 1973 cover of Popular Science Magazine.[13] As Cooper recalls from the experience: "I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the most dangerous things I have ever done in my life."

Cooper holding a DynaTAC cellphone in 2007

That first cell phone began a fundamental technology and communications market shift to making phone calls to a person instead of to a place.[3][19] Bell Labs had introduced the idea of cellular communications in 1947, but their first systems were limited to car phones which required roughly 30 pounds (12 kg) of equipment in the trunk.[21] Motorola gained Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval for cellular licenses to be assigned to competing entities and prevented an AT&T monopoly on cellular service.[13]

Cooper worked at Motorola for 29 years; building and managing both its paging and cellular businesses. He also led the creation of trunked mobile radio, quartz crystals, oscillators, liquid crystal displays, piezo-electric components, Motorola A. M. stereo technology and various mobile and portable two-way radio product lines.

Cooper rose to Vice-President and Corporate Director of Research and Development at Motorola.[1] In addition to his work on the mobile cellular phone, he was instrumental in expanding the technology of pagers from use within a single building to use across multiple cities.[5] Cooper also worked with inventor Clifford L. Rose to fix a flaw in quartz crystals used in Motorola's radios which encouraged the company to mass-produce the first crystals used in wrist watches.[5]

Cellular Business Systems[edit]

Dyna LLC[edit]

Martin Cooper and Arlene Harris

Cooper and his wife Arlene Harris founded Dyna LLC in 1986 as a home base for their developmental and support activities for the new companies, Subscriber Computing Inc., Cellular Pay Phone, Inc. (CPPI), SOS Wireless Communications and Accessible Wireless; the later two of which together created the underpinning for the creation of GreatCall, were all launched from Dyna LLC.

From his Dyna headquarters Cooper continues to write and lecture about wireless communications, technological innovation, the Internet and R&D management. He serves on industry, civic and national governmental groups including the U.S. Department of Commerce Spectrum Advisory Committee that advises the Secretary of Commerce of the United States on spectrum policy and the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) Technological Advisory Council.

GreatCall, Inc[edit]

In 1986 Cooper co-founded Cellular Payphone Inc. (CPPI), the parent company of GreatCall, Inc., Innovator of the Jitterbug cell phone (in partnership with Samsung).[23] GreatCall is the first complete end-to-end value-added service provider in the cellular industry to focus on simplicity with primary emphasis on boomers and senior citizens.


In 1992 Cooper co-founded Arraycomm a developer of software for mobile antenna technologies. Under his leadership, the Company grew from a seed-funded startup in San Jose, California, into the world leader in smart antenna technology with 400 patents issued or pending, worldwide.[24][edit]

Cooper joined the board of directors from 2015 to 2019.

Cooper's law[edit]

Cooper found that the ability to transmit different radio communications simultaneously and in the same place has grown at the same pace since Guglielmo Marconi's first transmissions in 1895. This led Cooper to formulate the Law of Spectral Efficiency, otherwise known as Cooper's Law. The law states that the maximum number of voice conversations or equivalent data transactions that can be conducted in all of the useful radio spectrum over a given area doubles every 30 months.[5][24]


Latest publications[edit]

"The Myth of Spectrum Scarcity" Position Paper, March 2010.

"Mobile WiMax – Fourth-Generation Wireless," Bechtel Communications Technical Journal, September 2007.

"The Need for Simplicity," in the anthology "Mobile Persuasion: 20 Perspectives on the Future of Behavior Change," published by Stanford University in 2007.

"Personal Communications in 2025" for Eta Kappa Nu Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society, Autumn 2005.

"Antennas Get Smart" in Scientific American, July 2003.

"Everyone is Wrong" in Technology Review, June 2001.[25]

Awards and affiliations[edit]

  • Mensa[26]
  • 1984 – IEEE Centennial Medal and Fellow
  • 1995 – Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award
  • 1996 – Radio Club of America Fred Link Award and Life Fellow with the International Engineering Consortium
  • 2000 – "Red Herring" Magazine Top Ten Entrepreneurs of 2000
  • 2000 – RCR Wireless News Hall of Fame Inaugural Member
  • 2002 – American Computer Museum George Stibitz Computer and Communications Pioneer Award
  • 2002 – Wireless Systems Design Industry Leader Award
  • 2006 – CITA Emerging Technologies Award
  • 2007 – Wireless World Research Forum Fellow
  • 2007 – Global Spec Great Moments Engineering Award
  • 2008 – CE Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame Award
  • October 2008 – Wireless History Foundation, Top U.S. Wireless Innovators of All Time.
  • 2009 – Prince of Asturias Award for scientific and technical research.[27]
  • 2009 – Life Trustee, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • 2010 – Radio Club of America, Lifetime Achievement Award
  • October 2010 – Member, National Academy of Engineering
  • 2011 – Inaugural Mikhail Gorbachev: The Man Who Changed the World Awards Nominee
  • 2011 – Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2012 – Washington Society of Engineers, Washington Award
  • 2013 – Charles Stark Draper Prize, National Academy of Engineering
  • 2013 – Marconi Prize[28][29]
  • 2013 – Honorary doctorate awarded by the students and the rector of Hasselt University on the occasion of the university's 40th anniversary.[30]
  • 2014 IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu Eminent Member [1]
  • 2019 – Leaves the Energous board of directors.


  1. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2008.
  2. ^ Companies Try to Create Room on Radio Spectrum, The New York Times, July 6, 2012
  3. ^ a b c A Chat With the Man Behind the Mobiles, BBC, April 21, 2003
  4. ^ a b Meet Marty Cooper, the Inventor of the Mobile Phone, BBC, April 23, 2010
  5. ^ a b c d e Father of the Cell Phone, Economist, June 4, 2009
  6. ^ The Cell Phone: Marty Cooper's Big Idea, CBS News 60 Minutes, June 11, 2010
  7. ^ a b c 38 years ago he made the first cell phone call, CNN. April 3, 2011
  8. ^ Wireless Hall of Fame – Arlene Harris, RCR Wireless, May 26, 2007
  9. ^ Carriers Warn of Crisis in Mobile Spectrum, The New York Times, April 17, 2012
  10. ^ "Jews of the Week: Martin Cooper and Joel Engel | Jew of the Week".
  11. ^ "April 3: The First Cell Phone Call". Jewish Currents.
  12. ^ "Jewish-American Hall of Fame – Nominate Somebody".
  13. ^ a b c d Oehmke, Ted (January 6, 2000) Cell Phone Ruin the Opera? Meet the Culprit, The New York Times
  14. ^ Reed, Brad (May 9, 2011) Meet the guy who made the first cellphone call 40 years ago today, Network World.
  15. ^ Best Inventions of 2007, Time.
  16. ^ "How William Shatner Changed the World—Martin Cooper, mobile phone inventor". Retrieved April 4, 2013 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ "Video interview with Marty Cooper". Scene World. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Inventor of the Cell Phone Says No to AT&T-Mobile, Yes to Apps, and More, PC Magazine, April 15, 2011
  19. ^ a b Inventor of Cell Phone: We Knew Someday Everybody Would Have One, CNN, July 9, 2010
  20. ^ Cooper, Martin et al. "All Signaling" U.S. Patent 3,906,166, Issued September 1, 1975
  21. ^ a b April 3, 1973: Motorola Calls AT& Cell, Wired, April 3, 2008
  22. ^ Twitter, Telegram and Email: Famous First Lines, BBC News, March 21, 2011
  23. ^ Cooper's Calling, ITP Net, April 21, 2010
  24. ^ a b Antennas Get Smart, Scientific American, June 9, 2003
  25. ^ Review, Technology. "Everyone Is Wrong". MIT Technology Review.
  26. ^ "They're Accomplished, They're Famous, and They're MENSANS". Mensa Bulletin. American Mensa (476): 25. July 2004. ISSN 0025-9543.
  27. ^ "The fathers of the mobile phone and email, Prince of Asturias Award Laureates for Technical and Scientific Research" (Press release). Fundación Príncipe de Asturias. June 17, 2009. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  28. ^ "Martin Cooper – Marconi Society".
  29. ^ "Martin Cooper - Marconi Award 2013".
  30. ^ Academische Openingszitting 2013–2014. September 27, 2013

External links[edit]

Media related to Martin Cooper at Wikimedia Commons