Richard W. Shoemaker (1881‑1965)


Richard W. Shoemaker '03, died on October 19, in Grass Valley, California, where he had been retired since 1953.  One of the oldest living Caltech alumni, he made significant contributions to the field of engineering during his lifetime.  His family has established an R. W. Shoemaker Memorial Fund to be given to the California Institute of Technology.


When Richard Shoemaker was still a student at Caltech – then called Throop College – he sent the first wireless message to Catalina Island.  Carrier pigeons flew messages the 28 miles from the mainland for the island's newspapers at that time.  After graduation Shoemaker went with the Federal Lead Mines in Missouri, where he installed an electrical method of hauling out ore, this time replacing donkeys being used for the job.


Back in California, in 1914, with the Bowie Switch Company, he put in the country's first trackless trolley in Laurel Canyon near Hollywood.  In 1917 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became the officer in charge of the building of the first battleship, Guinn, in Seattle.  After the war he went to Shanghai and Hong Kong to study electrical opportunities there, and to Manchuria to negotiate for the electrical railways in Harbin.


On his return to California, Shoemaker entered the hydroelectric field and was consulted regarding the power potential of Hoover Dam.  He designed the drop for the All‑American Canal in Imperial Valley and the power house at the Don Pedro Dam on the Tuolumne River near Turlock.  He had more than 20 patents in his name.  The most widely used is his bus bar, found in the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams.


In 1928 Shoemaker went to Brazil to centralize the electric companies in the state of Sao Paulo.  Upon his return in 1934, he was engaged as a consulting engineer for the Chase Brass & Copper Company and the Kennecott Wire and Cable Company in Connecticut, and became an authority on radiant heating.  His book on the subject was printed in French and Spanish.


Returning to California in 1946, Shoemaker was appointed consulting engineer for the Oakdale Irrigation District's Tri‑Dam Project on the San Joaquin River and, in 1950, for the Nevada Irrigation District.


He was a fellow of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers.  In 1962 he was chosen by the Engineering Council of Sacramento Valley as the engineer who had contributed most to the growth and development of the electrical power industry and the engineering profession.


Shoemaker was a member of the Caltech Alumni Association and, in 1953, was honored by the Institute on the golden anniversary of his graduation from Throop College.


He is survived by his wife and a son, Richard, of Washington, D.C.



Freshman Event


A “Gentlemen's Tea” for freshmen entering Caltech this fall from the New York City area was held by the Caltech Alumni Association's New York chapter in September.  Nineteen guests, including Caltech sophomores, juniors, and seniors from the Metropolitan area, were entertained at New York's Columbia University Club.  Victor Wouk, MS '40, PhD '42, was unofficial host, and Bruno Pilorz '44, president of the alumni chapter, presided at a question‑and-answer session.  Harry J. Moore, Jr., '48, was in charge of arrangements.


The New York Chapter hopes the tea will become an annual event.


‑Victor Wouk