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John Francis Mitchell (January 1, 1928 – June 9, 2009) was an American electronics engineer and President & COO of Motorola.[3][4]

John F. Mitchell
John Francis Mitchell

(1928-01-01)January 1, 1928
DiedJune 9, 2009(2009-06-09) (aged 81)
EducationIllinois Institute of Technology
OccupationExecutive, Engineer
Known forWireless Technology [1][2]
TitleChief Engineer
President & COO
Vice Chairman

Mitchell led the pioneering development and implementation of the Motorola's mobile phone technology producing the first portable transistorized pager and cell phone; was the driving force behind building quality into engineering,[5][6] and the establishment of the Motorola University and Six Sigma Institute;[7] and launched the global Iridium Satellite Constellation.

Family and early yearsEdit

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, son of Catholic Irish immigrants,[3][8][1] William Mitchell, Cloghboley, Maugherow, Sligo and Bridget Keane, Listowel, Kerry, Ireland.[2] He was married to Margaret and had three children.

Radio telephony and the cell phoneEdit

DynaTAC 8000X;1983, $3,995. 13" tall, weighed 30 oz.[9][10] First commercial portable cell phone. Dubbed the "Boot," later, a slimmer version was called the "Brick." DynaTAC=Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage. -First Patent Shown Here:[11] -Mitchell & DynaTAC, 04/03/73 [12]

Mitchell became Motorola's chief engineer for its mobile communication products in 1960. Prior to the development of the cell phone, Mitchell and his team of engineers produced and marketed the first transistorized pager[3][13] and obtained a patent for the concept of portable cell telephony, including small antennae used to help free mobile phone units from car trunks where they were typically installed.[14]

Mitchell,[4][15][16] Motorola's chief of portable communication products and Martin Cooper's[15][16] boss in 1973, played a key role in advancing the development of handheld mobile telephone equipment. Mitchell successfully pushed Motorola to develop wireless communication products that would be small enough to use anywhere and participated in the design of the cellular phone.[17][18] (See Wiki History of Mobile Phones)

Other initiativesEdit

In 1983, Mitchell was appointed U.S. President Ronald Reagan's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.[2] Mitchell was a senior member of the IEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers;[3] also served a chairman of the Electronic Industries Alliance; and a recognized expert on world trade,[19] serving as director of the National Association of Manufacturers;[4] and an expert on federal fiscal policy.[20] Mitchell was a director of Bell & Howell Company; trustee Engineering Advisory Council, Marquette University;[5] and active participant in the Easter Seals(US) Campaign;[6] and member of the Presidents Council of the American Lung Association.[7][19] Mitchell was trustee at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT); the Dublin City University, Ireland; and the University of Limerick Foundation. Mitchell was one of the architects, which also included Chuck Feeney,[8] of the huge expansion of the University of Limerick during the 1990s and 2000s through his work[21] on the University of Limerick foundation.[22][23][24] As a philanthropist and member of IIT's Philip Danforth Armour Society, [9] Mitchell established endowed scholarship funds for the Camras Program,[10] the Leadership Academy, and electrical engineering students. To date, the John F. Mitchell Scholarship Funds have supported more than 70 students at the university.[14][19]


Mitchell was awarded Honorary Degrees from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Humane Letters & Science, 1995;[25] an honorary doctorate of business administration from Iowa Wesleyan College, on May 18, 1985.;[26][27] and from Dublin City University, Ireland (Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath), Ireland, on October 25, 1996.[28] Recipient of the 2003 Chicago Innovation Award.[29] IIT Alumni Association award for Professional Achievement,1985 [11]. Alumni Medal 1994, IIT Alumni Association. IIT Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement Award (posthumous) 2010.[30][31]


U.S. Patent 2,833,994, July 2, 1954 for High Frequency Long-Line Variably End-Loaded with Clarence P. Pipes.

U.S.Patent 2,912,573, November 10, 1959 for Receiver having frequency and amplitude modulation detecting.

U.S. Patent 3,087,117, April 23, 1963 for Portable Transmitter Apparatus with Selective.

U.S. Patent 2,975,274, March 14, 1961 for Frequency Modulation Radio Receiver.

U.S. Patent 3,126,514,October 13, 1961 for Noise Reducing system with Jack Germain. Germain retired as Director of Quality Assurance.[32]

U.S. Patent 3,906,166, September 16, 1975 for a Radio Telephone System. the cell phone.[33] Martin Cooper, Richard W. Dronsurth, Albert J. Leitich, Charles N. Lynk,[34] James J. Mikulski,[35][36][37] John F. Mitchell, Roy A. Richardson, and John H. Sangster. NOTA BENE: Two names were botched in the original filing; Albert Leitich's surname was erroneously omitted, and included herein, and the first name of Mikulski was omitted, but included herein. The original document was refiled by Motorola's legal staff, but has not yet been identified. The seeds of the idea for a portable cell phone can be traced to James J. Mikulski, which were rejected by Mitchell for lack of sufficient business justifications. It is rumored that when John Mitchell suddenly recognized during an attempted phone call that his 400MHz phone had inherent limitations, he immediately reversed his previous decision and championed the portable cell phone concept.[37][38]

U.S. Patent 5,650,776, July 22, 1997 for a Communications Receiver with Thomas F. Holmes


  1. ^ University of Limerick Foundation Memorial for John Francis Mitchell - Trustee (a): (b): "During his 45-year career, Mitchell shaped the creation of nearly all of the wireless communications industries in the latter half of the 20th century." (c) "Blackhawks Water Polo Team," (d): "lifeguarding," (e): "shaped the creation of nearly all of the wireless communications industries" (f): his wife of 68 years
  2. ^ a b John Francis Mitchell Obituary: (a): "During his 45-year career, Mitchell shaped the creation of nearly all of the wireless communications industries in the latter half of the 20th century." (b): (e): the birth of the cell phone industry - "the cell phone industry was born" (c): Appointed by Reagan to National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee by Jennifer Erikson, Motorola Spokesperson, date=June 20–21, 2009, Chicago Tribune
  3. ^ a b c John Francis Mitchell Retirement-(a):"the son of Irish Immigrants," (b):"retiring in 1998 as Vice Chairman," (c): "-John F. Mitchell charted the development of the revolutionary first generation of cellphones, popular for their forward-looking technology but unaffectionately nicknamed "boot" for their size and heft, and later with the trimmed down version - referred to as "the brick"," (d):"-son of an Irish born Chicago Patrolman." (e):"John Francis Mitchell chief engineer", (f): "One early hit was the first transistorized pager," (g):"Mitchell pushed hard." (h): "John Francis Mitchell delayed his retirement to raise another $1.59 billion for Iridium." (i): "Iridium was a "triumph of technology over business," said Howard Anderson, Professor MIT" (j): "Mitchell was pleased to watch Iridium.....go on to perform as advertised in high stress situations...war zones....natural disasters." by Stephen Miller, June 20–21, 2009, The Wall Street Journal
  4. ^ a b John F. Mitchell biography
  5. ^ "The John Mitchell Quality Tester". Chicago Tribune. June 14, 2009.
  6. ^ John F. Mitchell, Longtime Motorola Leader: (a): (h):"Do it the engineering way, the proper way" (b): "Mitchell was very intelligent..creative..original..just a very good guy." (c): "John F. Mitchell had a reputation of being frugal," (d): "It was not about him or his perks, but rather the Team, " (e): "Colleagues stood in awe of his brilliance and his stand up management style." (f): Summary of Motorola Career. (g): John F. Mitchell, Longtime Motorola Leader - "You couldn't put one over on John," (i): John F. Mitchell, Longtime Motorola Leader, "kept everyone on their toes." by Sandra Guy, Chicago Sun-Times, July 2, 2009
  7. ^ Tennant, Geoff (2001). SIX SIGMA: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services - Quality Returns to America. Gower Publishing, Ltd. p. 6. ISBN 0566083744. Quality Returns to America
  8. ^ William & Bridie Mitchell, parents of John F. Mitchell
  9. ^ Time Magazine Memorial John F. Mitchell by Frances Romero, dated July 6, 2009, Time Magazine, (a):-60% of the world's population would use mobile phones just a quarter-century after his (Mitchell's) brainchild in 1983. (b): (c): (d): (i): "comments on early life in last paragraph - rough and tumble, erector set". (e): "technical specs of DynaTAC". (f): vision, "virtually anyone". (g): "60% of the world" - unprecedented success of the cell phone, $20 billion in sales. (h): "Motorola at the forefront of...revolution".
  10. ^ "Details on the original DynaTAC"
  11. ^ Patent for the First Cell Phone System (Radio Telephone System) Announced April 3, 1973.
  12. ^ From Brick to Slick; John F. Mitchell in NYC on April 3, 1973 at Patent Office on announcement of the DynaTAC cell phone , by Howard Wolinsky, Chicago Sun-Times, April 3, 2003
  13. ^ Cell Phones, From Brick to Slick: (a): "invented...marketed the first transistorized pager," (b): large 45 pound affairs...hard wired...lots of trunk space, (c): (d): (e): . by Howard Wolinksky, date=April 3, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times-pages 57-61
  14. ^ a b "J.F.Mitchell Biography". IIT - Illinois Institute of Technology, numerous references herein; e: Mitchell granted an honorary doctorate of Humane letters & Science . 2010. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  15. ^ a b The top 15 Giants in Telephony Archived January 17, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ a b Who Invented the Cell Phone?
  17. ^ "Motorola Executive Helped spur Cellphone Revolution, Oversaw Ill-fated Iridium Project". The Wall Street Journal, 20–21 June 2009, p. A10.
  18. ^ "John F. Mitchell, 1928–2009: Was president of Motorola from 1980 to '95, Chicago Tribune, June 17, 2009, retrieved June 17, 2009". Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  19. ^ a b c Iowa Wesleyan College - Bio of John F. Mitchell
  20. ^ "Iowa Weslyan College Commencement Address". May 18, 1985. Mitchell known as an expert on 'fiscal policy; Purple & White, Iowa Wesleyan College
  21. ^ "Jimmy Deenihan MP, Kerry". Chicago Tribune a:Comments on Mitchell's Philanthropic Work with University of Limerick Foundation, b:helping the Irish people. June 16, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |work= (help)
  22. ^
  23. ^ Search ULFoundation John Mitchell
  24. ^ "John Francis Mitchell Obituary". Chicago Tribune-The expansion of the Universality of Limerick. June 19, 2009.
  25. ^ "IIT Commencement Award notes". IIT. 1995. Mitchell granted an honorary doctorate of Humane letters & Science
  26. ^ "IWC Commencement Award". May 18, 1985. Mitchell granted an honorary doctorate of business administration. Purple & White, Iowa Wesleyan College
  27. ^ John Francis Mitchell, Doctor of Business Administration, IWC, May 18, 1983
  28. ^ "John Francis Mitchell Honorary Graduate Dublin City University (Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath)".
  29. ^ John Francis Mitchell, Ton Kobrinetz, Marty Cooper, Chicago Sun-Times-Innovation Awards
  30. ^ Commencement Awards & Notes Illinois Institute of Technology IIT, dated 1995, - (a): "led the evolution of the first generation of cell phones, a field that Motorola would dominate for years." (b): Awards for John F. Mitchell. (c): Posthumous Award 2010.(d): "led the evolution of the first generation of cell phones, a field that Motorola would dominate for years" (e): the first cell phone was affectionately known as the Brick
  31. ^ insert link on IIT site of vips and notables; create new category for business leaders in wiki; also link back to Bob Galvin for Six Sigma}
  32. ^ Jack Germain & Art Sundry Key Movers in Creation of Motorola's Six Sigma CultureSix Sigma at Motorola by Robert Knight, senior rewrite editor, City News Bureau, Chicago, January 1995, IPO Issue 29 (Illinois Periodicals Online)
  33. ^ {{citation correction: need to come back to correct wiki Radiotelephone to include Mitchell}} (the cell phone){correct in wiki Mobile phone to include Mitchell}
  34. ^ Letter to Middle Schooler, granddaughter of Chuck Lynk, co-inventor of cell phone, by James J. Mikulski, co-inventor of first cell phone April 3, 1973
  35. ^ Comments by Albert (Jim) Mikulski, co-inventor of first cell phone, June 6, 2009, Chicago Tribune (a):"Mitchell known as a hands on manager" (b): (c): (e): (f): (g): "willing to give credit to those who worked in the trenches." (c): (d): "I remember his delegating his task as...GM to work in the Applied Research Lab and in give and take with the engineers as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) docket 18262 that would shape Motorola's the 1970s." (h): Mitchell team member, (i) patent holder
  36. ^ Co-inventor, First Cell Phone, J.J.Mikulski
  37. ^ a b Discontinuance of Product Line, Business Case Study Cell Phone, Macher, Jeffrey and Richman, Barak D., Organizational Responses to Discontinuous Innovation: A Case Study Approach. International Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. VII, No. 1, March 2004. Available at SSRN:
  38. ^ need a companion reference here