Acknowledgements: Thanks to Margo Low, Dorcas Low Prince and Rebecca Low for information and Low family photos.
Kenneth Warne Erickson was born March 10, 1915, in Dallas, Texas to John Emil (1856–1956) and Claudie Lois Warne Erickson (1880–1962). His father was a clerk and had been born in Wisconsin. His mother was born in Ohio. He had an older sister, Edra Loraine(1912–2001). Ken’s paternal grandparents were born in Norway and Sweden.
Ken and his sister Edra both attended Sunset High School in Dallas. Edra graduated in 1930 and Ken in 1932. His yearbook picture indicates his participation in Aviation Club, Skating Club and Swimming Club.
Ken enrolled in the University of Texas in 1935 and received his a bachelor of arts degree in 1939. He apparently worked several years after high school before attending UT. The depression years made this not uncommon. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at UT in 1939.
Following graduation, Ken enrolled in the UT Graduate School, remaining there until 1941. He left to work as a physicist at the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Washington, DC, a decision driven by the outset of war. As a result he did not receive a masters degree. He remained at NOL for a year. From 1942–1943, he worked as a Field Consultant at the Navy Department Bureau of Ships. From 1943–1945, he returned to NOL as an Electrical Engineer. He next was a Staff Member with the Joint Task Force 1 (Bikini Tests), from 1945-1946. Most of his work in Washington was related to electronic harbor defense, such as torpedo and mine fuzing.
According to his UT classmate and lifetime friend, Neal Clarkson, Ken worked as a maintenance man at Kirby Hall. It was there he met his future wife Jewell Adell Low. They were married in Washington DC, June 27, 1943.
In September of 1946, he returned to the UT Graduate School, and in February 1948, he went to work at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico where, as a result of a joint arrangement between this laboratory and the University of Texas, he was able to carry out his doctorate research on their cyclotron. While Professor M. Y. Colby was listed as his thesis supervisor, the work was done under the direction of Dr. Alvin Graves who was on leave from UT at that time.
In June, 1950, Dr. Erickson completed his dissertation, Differential Cross Section as a Function of Angle for the D(d,p)T Reaction for 10.9 Mev Bombarding Deuterons. Others on his committee were C. P. Bone, S. Leroy Brown, Homer Craig (mathematics) and H. J. Ettlinger (math). Following graduation, Erickson took a permanent position at Los Alamos in the Weapons Division .
At some point before 1954, Dr. Erickson move to Sandia Corporation in Albuquerque. In 1954, he held a temporary assignment with the Weapons Systems Analysis Group in Washington, D. C. He was on leave from his position as Head of the Weapons Analysis Department of Sandia Corporation.
Kaman Sciences. (following excerpted from The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of Industrial America by Ann Markus, Peter Hall, Scott Campbell, and Sabina Deitrick.)
“Although the National R&D Labs had not generated many for-proﬁt spinoffs, Ken Erickson of Sandia Labs was an exception. In 1957, he and a group of scientists gained the backing of the newly-successful Kaman Corporation of Connecticut to set up Kaman Sciences in Albuquerque, doing high-level, classified work in nuclear physics for the Pentagon. Two years later, they found themselves boxed in, having exhausted all the available space in their lodgings behind a five-and-dime store and a beauty parlor. They first looked to expand on the outskirts of Albuquerque and found a one-acre plot near the airport. Company president Charles Kaman nixed the proposal; burned by expansion difficulties himself, he counseled them to find a much bigger parcel. But the larger local options were too expensive. Kaman felt rebuffed by the city of Albuquerque, which appeared indifferent to the firms dilemma.
Kaman Sciences had worked almost exclusively on military prime contracts, mainly with the Air Force. Its work did not mandate geographical linkages to any other contractor or supplier, nor was it sensitive to the location of military users. Industrial recruiters caught wind of Kaman’s plight and moved in. “Word got out," reported Albert Bridges, current president of Kaman Sciences, “and the Colorado Springs people came down." So did suitors from Oregon, Florida, and other places in New Mexico.”
For management, only two things mattered: inexpensive and abundant land, plus an attractive living environment for their employees. Colorado Springs was aggressive on the former; it offered the land cheaply and even gave Kaman an option to name the road. Colorado had attractive housing costs, too, and recreational opportunities galore mountains, skiing, fishing. Bridges reported that during a previous West Coast stint, he had tried to buy a house in Santa Barbara. “People insulted you if you were going to pay with an FHA loan and not full price,” he said. Colorado Springs, in contrast, welcomed every type of housing loan available. “People here have really opened up their arms,” Bridges concluded.
In 1959, Kaman Sciences moved to the Garden of the Gods site in Colorado Springs, along with the entire Albuquerque science and engineering staff.”
In 1957, Dr. Erickson was made vice president and general manager of the new Nuclear Division of Kamen Aircraft Corporation of Albuquerque, NM. Kamen was a helicopter concern based in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Ken and helicopter at Kamen in 1959 is shown below.
In 1967, Ken was named to the first Board of Advisors for the Regional Service Institute at Southern Colorado State College. The Institute was formed to bring together the various community service programs of the college in the region for better coordination and to apply research, studies and other professional efforts to the problems and needs of Southern Colorado.
In December 1967, the Kamen Nuclear company received an I-R 100 Award. The award was presented to developers of the 100 technical products judged as the most significant innovations of the year. Dr. Erickson accepted the award for the company in New York. Their winning product was the Model A-711 neutron generator and K-ramic bearing and seal materials. These products are used in neutron activation analysis.
In March 1968, Kamen Corporation announced that five science and technology divisions will be established as a separate, wholly-owned subsidiary, effective by April. Divisions will include nuclear technology, ocean engineering, advanced aerodynamics, system analysis and biomedical engineering. It was to be known as Kaman Sciences Corporation. The president of the new corporation will be Dr. Kenneth W. Erickson, now vice president of the Kaman Corporation. ( The Bridgeport (Connecticut Post.)
In May of 1970, a scholarship fund by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Colorado Springs Center of the University of Colorado to provide local students with financial assistance was announced by Dr. Kenneth W. Erickson, Vice Provost at the center.
Ken served on the board of directors of Academy Boulevard Bank.
Kenneth died January 1, 1978 in Steamboat Springs, CO. He is buried the Low family plot in Oaklawn Cemetery in Brinkley, Monroe County, Arkansas.
Jewell Low Erickson's last residence was 77021 Brinkley, Monroe, Arkansas. She became ill and moved back home. She died October 1982.
Jewell Adell Low was born November 28, 1920, in Arkansas, to Robert E. S. and Zelma Low. Robert was the proprietor of a cleaning and pressing company. Robert is pictured at left at age 16. Jewell had a younger brother Robert. Her brother’s obituary reads in part, “Robert Edward Low, Jr. was born on August 8, 1923 in the community of Mounds, Oklahoma, located 19 miles south of Tulsa. At age 3, Bob's parents, Robert and Zelma (Berstler) Low moved the family from Oklahoma and settled in Brinkley, Arkansas.“ They are pictured at right in 1937 in Brinkley.
Jewell and her brother Robert are pictured below left.
In high school, Jewell was senior class vice-president; Pep Club: Salutatorian: Rotary speech winner: Speech Club; Crescendo Music Club; member one-act play at A. S. U. meet ’38; third place serious reading at district meet ’38.
Jewell was in the UT Cactus yearbook in 1941 as a member of the Forensics Society, a women’s club dedicated to public speaking. These high school accomplishment foreshadow the meny talents Jewell would exhibit during her adult life. According to her sister-in-law, Margo Low, Jewell was an X-ray technician. Margo also said that Jewell attended U. of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR. She worked in Little Rock, AR, as a technician in 1942, before she married Ken the following year.
After Ken and Jewell moved to Albuquerque, Jewel chaired an American Association of University Women’s radio committee. She was a member of their Great Books study group. The local paper announced her leading a discussion on Machiavelli’s The Prince. She supported programs that featured native New Mexican culture. She also served as Television Director for the Albuquerque school district. She had a career as a sculptress. An example of her work is shown in the newspaper article at the end of this page.
A Jewell A. Erickson married William Murray about 1979 in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Document says she was born in Albuquerque, NM. Seems unlikely that this is Ken’s wife, though name is complete match and marriage occured a year after Ken died. Bernalillo is just north of Albuquerque.
Ken Erickson’s Obituary:
IN MEMORIAM (from the Colorado Springs, Gazette Telegraph, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 1978)
Kenneth Warne Erickson
The funeral of Kenneth Warne Erickson, a former president of Kaman Sciences Corp., was held Jan. 5, in Brinkley, Ark.
Mr. Erickson, who also had held the position of assistant provost at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, died Jan. 1
Born March 10, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, he earned a PhD from the University of Texas in nuclear physics, being the prototype for the thesis student program of Los Alamos, (N.M.) Scientific Laboratories, where he worked with the cyclotron group.
In World War II, he distinguished himself for defense weaponry in the Naval Ordinance Laboratories in Washington, DC. After the war, he became department manager for New Weapons Research and Weapons Analysis for Sandia Laboratories, Western Electric, in Albuquerque, N. M.
In 1957, Mr. Erickson formed Kaman Nuclear. Under his direction, Kaman rapidly became one of the country’s leading research and development organizations. The Kaman scientists and their programs gained national and international recognition and served as scientific advisors for the US Polaris program. They developed a small, portable neutron source which was used by universities and laboratories throughout the world, offered a data processing service for area institutions and businesses, and won annual awards for original research and development.
In 1968, Mr. Erickson was elected president of Kaman Sciences Corp. and the next year was named assistant provost of UCCS.
Upon his retirement, he moved to Steamboat Springs where he opened his office as a part-time investment broker.
He is survived by his wife, Jewell Erickson; two sons, Marc and Jon; a daughter, Marta Erickson; and a sister, Mrs. Hubert Gulbransen of San Rafael, Calif.
Mr. Erickson was buried in the R. E. Low family plot in Oaklawn Cemetery in Brinkley. Bob Neal and Sons Funeral Home handled arrangements at that city.
The Beginning of Diversification The Kaman Nuclear Division (from Kaman Corporation, An American Story by Charles H. Kaman, 1983, The Newcomen Society of the United States)
During the early '50s, the company undertook a contract with the Sandia Corporation of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to develop a rotochute device which would be designed to retard the descent speed of a nuclear device, particular from the point of view of providing adequate time delay for an aircraft delivering such a device to escape its effect. This was all brought about by an association with Dr. Kenneth W. Erickson of Sandia. Development in this field, while continuing for a while, did not materialize; but in the process, Dr. Erickson and I became extremely close friends, shared views of business accomplishment which laid the groundwork for the founding of Kaman Nuclear Division. Dr. Erickson and five associate scientists were at the time angered by the regimentation and lack of flexibility and management policies of Bell Labs which managed Sandia. They left on the speculation that Kaman Aircraft would finance them for their first year of endeavor and within that time period they would have to achieve sufficient study work from various defense organizations to be self-sufficient. They rented an abandoned grocery store in Albuquerque and hung out their shingle on January 1, 1957. They not only became self-sufficient within a year, but within two years they had outgrown their quarters to the point that a home became an absolute necessity. By then, there were some forty scientists and technicians on board. The were not destined to remain in Albuquerque, a city flourishing with scientific work, but rather to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city seeking to attract new industry, particularly in scientific endeavor. Thus, the fledgling Kaman Nuclear Division moved in June 1959, and, with the help of the city fathers in Colorado Springs, in June 1959, built the first of a series of substantial structures there. Later, the organization was renamed Kaman Sciences Corporation and recently, the instrumentation and hardware side of the business split off to become Kaman Instrumentation Corporation. Today the combined enterprise exceeds $46 million in annual revenues, employs forty-seven PhDs, over 750 people, and occupies a seventy-six acre complex.
A little know fact is that the Kaman Nuclear Division was involved in the 1962 Pacific nuclear weapons test series, "Operation Fishbowl." Dr. Frank Shelton was a chief technical representative of the Department of Defense and reported directly on guidance and policy issues to McGeorge Bundy, President Kennedy's National Security Advisor. The corporation is one of the largest subcontractors to the government on the underground nuclear tests being conducted in Nevada and has maintained a preeminent level of scientific endeavor associated with reliability, vulnerability and feasibility of all types of modern defense systems. Hardware enterprises arising from this work extend from early warning devices in nuclear reactor power plants to minute strands of cable capable of surviving under the most hostile of environments. The Sciences corporation, being an early user of massive computer facilities, was also destined to offer its services to others. KBS, computer software service, is offered commercially by the Sciences company to radio and TV stations throughout the country to assist in programming, billing and all phases of management control. Another example of the products that have come from this scientific endeavor is a material known as K-ramic® ceramic which treats alumina/silica chemically with close to absolutely zero dimensional alteration to achieve a hardness approximately equivalent to carbide steel. Applications are widespread for such a radical new chemical innovation as might be expected. Other ventures involve the peaceful use of nuclear devices such as the bore hole neutron generator, ideal for substrata analysis in the continuing quest for petroleum products
Kenneth Warne Erickson Photos and Documents