Jacob E. Goldman, 90, a physicist who as Xerox's chief scientist founded its vaunted Palo Alto Research Center, which invented the modern personal computer, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday in Westport, Conn.
Emblematic of a time when American corporations invested heavily in basic scientific research, Mr. Goldman played an important role both at Ford Motor Co., during the 1950s and at Xerox, in the 1960s and 1970s, in financing basic scientific research to try to spark corporate innovation.
In the late 1960s, Xerox, then the dominant maker of office copiers, was seeking ways to move into new markets when he proposed an open-ended research lab to explore what then-chief executive C. Peter McColough called "the architecture of information." Computer systems were still not available in offices then, and little was known about the shape of what would come to be called "the office of the future."
"He was the one that made sure that Xerox understood there was a revolution coming behind them that might change their business," said Michael Hiltzik, author of Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age.
PARC was established in 1970 in an industrial park next to Stanford University. Its researchers designed a remarkable array of computer technologies, including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing and the graphical user interface.
The technologies would later be commercialized by both Apple Computer and Microsoft Corp., among others, and Xerox would be criticized for not capitalizing enough on the technologies it had pioneered - for "fumbling the future."