John T. Parsons, 93, inventor of Numerical Control (NC), died April 18 in Traverse City, Mich. A long-time fellow of the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME), Parsons originated the concept, now called Computer Numerical Control (CNC), in 1948, and obtained the first patent for an NC system in 1958. NC also paved the way for computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).
In 2001, SMEs Manufacturing Engineering magazine called Parsons the Father of the Second Industrial Revolution. A cornerstone of modern manufacturing, NC principles also are widely used in medicine, automated sewing and embroidery-control, and many other applications. History will bear out the fact that NC is the single most significant contribution to manufacturing the world has ever seen, says Charles Hutchins, retired co-founder, Manufacturing Data Systems Inc. John got this idea before computers were hardly thought of, and long before they were on everyones desks.
Parsons Corp., an auto parts and armaments firm during World War II, later made helicopter rotor blades and fuel tanks for Saturn V booster rockets. He sold the company in the early 1970s to focus on private R&D. He received the National Medal of Technology in 1985.