Harvey Picker Dies
Picker, physicist, inventor, educator, businessman and
philanthropist, died on March 22. He was 92.
Mr. Picker's gift of $7 million
established an endowment for the Picker Engineering Program
at Smith College, his wife’s
alma mater, in 1999. The nation's first engineering program
at a women’s
college, it has become a model for attracting women to engineering.
Jean Picker, who served as an
ambassador to the United Nations during the 1960s, was an
active collaborator in Mr. Picker’s many interests.
She died in 1990.
was born in New York City in 1915. He graduated from Colgate
University in 1936 and from Harvard Business School with
an MBA in 1938. During that time he also studied at Oxford
In 1938 Mr. Picker joined Picker
X-ray Company, which his father had founded two decades earlier.
When war broke out in Europe, Picker X-ray, in collaboration
with the Army, developed field X-ray equipment small enough
to fit into three foot lockers and sturdy enough to be parachuted
to wherever it was needed. At the end of the war, Mr. Picker
and his father sent a check for $3 million, representing
the company's profits from those field X-ray machines, to
the U.S. Treasury, explaining that the family did not wish
to profit from the war effort.
While in the Navy, Mr. Picker was selected to work on the
secret development of radar with a team of physicists at
the Radiation Laboratory at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. After
returning to civilian life, he headed Picker X-ray Company
for 25 years, leading the company into such groundbreaking
developments as cobalt therapy for cancer, nuclear imaging
diagnostics and the use of ultrasound for oceanography, which
was then adapted for medical imaging.
In 1971, Mr. Picker returned
to his alma mater, Colgate University, as an adjunct faculty
member. He challenged
his students to examine the unintended consequences of the
forces that were shaping the world they would one day control
in a number of thought-provoking courses, including “The
Social Control of Science and Technology” and “The
Politics of Assassination.”
In 1972, Mr. Picker was
asked by the faculty of the Columbia University School
of International and Public Affairs to serve
as dean, despite the fact that he had neither an advanced
degree nor any professional experience in the field of
international relations. The school tripled
in size during his tenure.
Moving to Camden in 1982, Mr.
Picker, an avid sailor, bought Wayfarer Marine, one of the
largest boatyards on the East Coast. In keeping with his
commitment to public service, he served on many local boards,
including the Camden Personnel Board; the Camden Public Library;
the Camden-Rockport Development Committee; Bay Chamber Concerts;
the Penobscot Marine Museum; the Maine Maritime Museum; the
Island Institute; the Midcoast Mental Health Foundation;
the Midcoast Mental Health Association; the Maine Medical
Assessment Foundation; and the Mid-Coast Forum in International
At the request of then-governor
Jock McKernan, he served on the Maine Health Care Finance
Commission in 1989 and then on the Blue-Ribbon Commission
to Overhaul the Workers’ Compensation
In 1987 Mr. Picker
was among the founders of the Camden Conference. In 1996
he was the prime mover in the funding and construction
of the Centennial Wing of the Camden Public Library. He
was named Townsperson of the Year by the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville
Chamber of Commerce in 1995, and he was elected a Harris
Fellow by the Camden Rotary Club.
In 1994 Mr. Picker took
over the operations of Picker Institute, which he had founded
at the suggestion of and in partnership with his wife,
Jean, in 1986. A global independent nonprofit organization,
Picker Institute is dedicated to advancing the principles
of patient-centered care as seen “through
the patient's eyes.” The institute, which is credited
with having coined the phrase "patient-centered care,” also
pioneered patient-satisfaction surveys comprising the systematic
collection of data from hospital patients to help improve
the delivery of medical services. Since then, the Picker
Surveys have become a standard measure of patient care worldwide.
Mr. Picker served on many
boards, among them the New York Philharmonic, Hudson Institute,
Colgate University, Lenox Hill Hospital, New Rochelle Hospital,
Radiological Society Research and Education Foundation.
He was a member of the National Science Board and of the
International Atomic Energy Agency.
Throughout his life, Mr. Picker believed in the challenge
of, and took great pleasure in, finding ways to empower people
through education. He believed in personal responsibility,
and in being answerable for the consequences to others of
decisions made by people with power over others. He believed
that identifying problems and solving them was the most fun
a person could have other than sailing along the Maine coast
on a sunny September afternoon. Finally, he believed that
he had been graced with an enormous amount of luck and good
fortune in his life, and he never ceased to express his gratitude
Mr. Picker is survived by two daughters, Bobbi Hamill of
Boston. Mass., Gale Jean Picker of Seattle, Wash.; and three
grandchildren, Jean Picker Larsen, Evelyn Picker Larsen and
Matthew James Mrachek.
Services will be announced at
a later date.