J. Erik Jonsson
Class of 1922
Philanthropist, Leader, Public Servant
1901 - 1994
Jonsson began working at an early age to help support his Swedish immigrant family.
In 1930 he joined Geophysical Service Inc., a firm destined to become Texas Instruments. Under Jonsson’s guidance, outstanding research and development led to the company’s invention of silicon transistors. A pioneer in modern electronics, the company produced the first transistor radio and the first hand-held calculator. Other innovations included the the integrated circuit, the single-chip microcomputer and three-dimensional seismic surveying.
Even while building a successful company, Jonsson never lost sight of his civic responsibility. As mayor, he helped Dallas rebuild its confidence following the assassination of President Kennedy. He spearheaded the effort to build the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, at its opening in 1973 the largest in the world.
He touched every aspect of Rensselaer as a trustee and one of the Institute’s most generous benefactors. He was the first recipient of the Rensselaer Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1967.