Michael Sokolski

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Michael Sokolski (September 25, 1926 – June 13, 2012) was a Polish-born American design engineer. Sokolski was the inventor[1] of the Scantron OMR scanner, used to scan and grade forms on which students mark answers to academic multiple choice test questions.[2][3][4]

Sokolski was born in Poland on September 25, 1926.[3] His mother was killed and their home bombed during the German occupation of Poland during World War II.[3] He was forced to flee from his hometown at the age of sixteen.[3] Sokolski enlisted in the Polish Armed Forces in the West under British command, becoming a tank driver during the war. He fought, and was wounded, at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, for which he received the Italy Star.[3][4] He joined the Polish Resettlement Corps after the war and studied at the former British Institute of Technology in Fermo, Italy.[3] He emigrated, first to Sweden and then to the United States, settling in Saint Paul, Minnesota.[3]

He enrolled as a foreign student at Hamline University in 1952.[3] Sokolski earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1957.[3] He worked in Hawaii for a short time after graduation and returned to Minnesota. He became a United States citizen in 1963.[3]

For five years, Sokolski worked for IBM at their facility in Rochester, Minnesota.[3] In 1966, he founded the Datronics company, based in Rochester. He served as Datronics' president until 1969 (Datronics was later sold to 3M).[3] He moved to Santa Ana, California, in 1972.[1][3][4]

Shortly thereafter, he joined Scantron, a firm headed by the founding CEO William E. Sanders. He served as Scantron's Executive Vice President of Engineering.[3] He was the engineer who developed Scantron's multiple choice answer sheets, which use a number 2 pencil to read and grade a student's test results.[3] He held several of the company's optical mark recognition patents in the United States.[3] The introduction of the Scantron test has revolutionized tests given in all forms of formal education.[2][4]

He simultaneously became active in the communities of Orange County, California. He served on an advisory board for the Orange County Sheriff's Department for several years and became a technical adviser for the Santa Ana Police Department in 1979.[3]

Outside of his career, Sokolski was an avid fisherman, sailor and aviator.[4] He reportedly made 123 fishing trips over the course of twenty-five years, mostly to Wisconsin, the U.S. West Coast and the Queen Charlotte Islands, which are now called Haida Gwaii.[3] He was made an honorary chief of the Haida Nation of British Columbia, receiving the Kilssay G uud (Chief Eagle).[3]


Sokolski died of congestive heart failure on June 13, 2012, at the age of 85.[3] He was survived by his wife, Joanne W. Mayo, whom he married on July 2, 1972; sister, Helen Brandes; two stepchildren; and seven grandchildren.[3]


  1. ^ a b Krumboltz, Mike (2012-06-29). "Michael Sokolski, creator of Scantron, dies at 85". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  2. ^ a b Oremus, Will (2012-06-29). "Three Hours of Silence for Michael Sokolski, Inventor of the Scantron". Slate (magazine). Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Michael Sokolski obituary". The Orange County Register. 2012-06-26. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Michael Sokolski Dead: Scantron Inventor Dies At 85". Huffington Post. 2012-06-29. Retrieved 2012-07-04.