Simon Ramo: “By the age of 30, he had 25 patents”

by Gary North

My theory of life is this: it is a marathon. You must pace yourself.

Different people have different styles. They are limited physically and mentally. They must run accordingly.

The secret of success is simple: do not stop running.

Consider Simon Ramo. He died this week at age 103.

I knew the name because I had lived in Manhattan Beach, California, in the late 1950’s. The next town east was North Redondo, an extension of Redondo Beach. There, a large aerospace firm was located: Ramo-Wooldridge. In 1958, it became Thompson Ramo Woodridge. Then in the mid-1960’s, it became TRW.

He started out fast: violin lessons at age eight. This had long been the accepted way out of the ghetto for Russian Jews. It was still an accepted way of life for Jews in 1911. It worked, although the “ghetto” was Salt Lake City. At the age of 11, he was a virtuoso, one of the best child prodigies in the United States. A few years later, that got him into Cal-Tech, which took musical abilities into consideration. At age 23, he received a double Ph.D. in physics and electrical engineering. Here is how he passed the language requirements, which were major barriers to getting a Ph.D. for most Americans.

He fulfilled the school’s language requirements by taking the French and German exams the same day — without ever studying either language. “I found I was a natural code breaker,” he explained, managing to decipher enough words to translate passages into English even though he “hadn’t the slightest idea what they were talking about.”

By the age of 30, he had 25 patents.

In 1953, at the age of 40, he and Wooldridge started a little business in what had been a barbershop. By 1957, they had achieved this:

Simon Ramo IS a Download

Here is why, in the words of The New York Times.

. . . he was still working out of a former barbershop when President Dwight D. Eisenhower called to ask if he could build an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of striking the Soviet Union in less than an hour, and if he could do it before the Russians built the same. “This is now our No. 1 project,” he recalled Mr. Eisenhower saying. “Let’s get it done.”

He got it done.

He wrote two books on championship tennis. He wrote two textbooks on microelectronics. One of them sold a million copies.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

At the age of 89 in 2002, he negotiated the sale of TRW to Grumman Aircraft. It sold for $7.8 billion.

In 2013, he became the oldest man ever to receive a U.S. patent, a computer program that asks students if they understand information that is being delivered, and react accordingly.

He had it all laid out, as he told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: “I decided to use 103 as my time to go to plan my philanthropy. I want to run out of money so I don’t have to pay any inheritance taxes.” He died right on schedule.

He started fast. He ran faster. He kept running. He saw the finish line. He crossed it still running. He beat the IRS.

This is the way to live, if you can do it.


The number of people like Ramo is limited. Far more people could do what he could do than ever do it, yet hardly anyone could do it. He was probably in the top one-tenth of one percent in terms of abilities, and then he got in the top 1% of that group. He understood this at a young age. In 1995, he told an interviewer this: “There’s room for three or four concert violinists in the world — not even thirty. But engineering, for goodness sakes, there’s all kinds of engineering, it takes a lot of engineers to work out all the things that a society needs.”

In the words of New York politician George Washington Plunkett a century ago, he seen his opportunities, and he took ’em.

The great sprinter at the 1924 Olympics was Eric Liddell, a Scot. He learned months before that he would have to run the trial heat for the 100-meter race on a Sunday. He was a Sabbatarian. So, he switched to the 400-meter race a year before. He made the event — and also the 200 meter. He won a bronze in the 200 and a gold in the 400. That let Harold Abrahams win the 100 meter. The Sabbatarian Congregationalist and the non-Sabbatarian Jew went home with gold medals. (Actually, Abrahams’ medal was sent to him by mail a few weeks later.) They never did run against each other, contrary to Chariots of Fire.

Then there is the matter of pacing. In running the 400 meters, Liddell had an odd style. He ran very fast in the first half. Then he put his head back and ran faster in the second half. At Paris, he set the world record with this technique.

In 2013, when I launched the Ron Paul Curriculum, I put my head back.

With your head back, you can’t see the finish line. You also can’t see if anyone is gaining on you. I hope I don’t trip.

Harland Sanders had to put his head back late in the marathon. He lost his business at age 66. He had sold fried chicken in a town that got bypassed by the interstate. He decided to start a franchise. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Reprinted here with expressed, written permission from Dr. Gary North. See his websites, Specific Answers and Tea Party Economist.


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