Bob Galvin, who oversaw Motorola’s invention of the cell phone and helped change the way the world communicates, has died at the age of 89. Galvin led Motorola (NYSE: MMI) as CEO and later chairman as the company developed the first cell phones in the 1970s and 80s, ushering in a new industry that is gathered this week in San Diego to celebrate its strength.
Galvin took the reins at Motorola in 1959 from his father and company founder Paul Galvin and stepped down in 1988 when his son Christopher became CEO, remaining on Motorola’s board until 2001. During that time Motorola practically invented an industry that has touched nearly everyone in the developed world: there are now more wireless subscribers in the U.S. then there are people.
The first phones Motorola developed were not pretty, but they paved the way for wireless as we know it. Don’t ask anyone at CTIA who Bob Galvin was, however: Motorola’s booth featured no mention of Galvin, which probably isn’t that surprising considering references to the Galvins are rare on the sites of both Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions. A few passers-by responded with polite-but-blank stares when asked if they had heard of Galvin.
Galvin’s family issued a press release announcing his death. “Galvin discovered his highest passions pursuing the principles of leadership, innovation, creativity, ethics, and dignity and respect for all. His was an inspiring, principled, loving and accomplished American life,” they said in the release.
Motorola issued its own statement hours later. “Bob’s commitment to innovation has remained a core value at Motorola Mobility and his contributions have left a lasting mark on both the Motorola Mobility portfolio and the entire cell phone industry. Today we honor Bob’s many accomplishments and celebrate the technology he was so instrumental in building.”