Rest in Peace, Our Friend Irving Erlichman

, | November 25, 2019

Irving Erlichman passed away on November 8, 2019 at the age of 96. He worked for Exergen from 1989 – 2019. In 2014, our marketing team interviewed him, he didn’t want us to publish it then. He said he didn’t want to jinx himself, working at the age of 91 at the time. He still worked until his health declined this year. Read the interview below. Godspeed Irving!

Over 90 years young and still going strong in his second career after his retirement in 1985 from Polaroid: The Ultimate Secret

Some people cannot wait to quit stop working and retire. Yet, Some other people simply never retire. What is their ultimate secret? Please let me introduce Irving. He studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern University and graduated in a year that he did not want to disclose. He was a mechanical engineer for Polaroid for 25 years who retired in 1985. 

After coauthoring 70 patents, including “Grand Money Meters” you would expect that he would slow down and enjoy “the good life”. NOPE, everything but that. Irving decided to start his own consulting company and in 2014, he is celebrating his 25th anniversary with Exergen Corp for whom he started to work in 1989. The great thing is that we found out about this joyous fact during our interview.

Good Afternoon Irving, how long have you been working for Exergen? 

Geeeehhhhhhh. That is a really interesting question. I retired from Polaroid in 1985 for whom I worked for 25 years. I was an engineering fellow for Imaging Technology. During my Polaroid days, an external company needed my expertise and requested if I could help them. I needed to have official permission from Polaroid which I ultimately got. So I started my own consulting business BEFORE my retirement. I think I have been working for Exergen Corp. for maybe 18 years. 

Irving Erlichmann
Irving Erlichmann

Well, time flies when you are having fun. We just learned that you started as a consultant in 1989. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! First 25 years Polaroid – now Exergen. Pretty amazing. 

How did you start working for them?

 It started with a coffee. While at Polaroid I was working on a new machine and needed help with fiber optics and sensing technology. The name of the expert was Bob Genner, who became a member of the board of Exergen Corp. Over time Bob and I developed a solid, long term relationship. One day Bob, who by the way was a very fascinating guy, showed me a scanner that Dr. Frank Pompei, CEO of Exergen, had invented. I was impressed. Bob suggested introducing me to Frank which lead to (smiles) another long-lasting friendship. Over time I was introduced to a number of different challenges, different projects and had my hand on all industrial projects within Exergen Corp. 

Where you involved in any patents? 

Big smile. YEP – over 70 patents were filed or co-filed in my name. But those were mainly in my Polaroid days. One of them you will know! Grand Money Meters, where you toss money in the basket of toll booths. Those were interesting times.

More interesting than 2014? 

No way. These are interesting times as well. I am very, very motivated by Frank. He challenges me by making statements like It would be nice if … How could we … Working with Frank is a constant drive. He pushes the envelope. He has a very mathematical mind. I have a more intuitive mind. We are part of a very strong team

What was the most interesting project to work on within Exergen? 

There is not one, there are many like for example the unpowered infrared t/c. Frank did not think I could do it. BUT I searched for the problem. IF you can describe the problem, there IS a solution for it. My goal was to be the problem solver.

How long did you work on the IRt/c? 

Once I described the problem I looked for the ultimate design. I solved the issue quicker than anybody expected (smiles). 

What project are you working on right now? 

Most recently, I finished updating the calibration machine of the TAT (temporal artery thermometer). One of the big challenges was to double the speed. We like to increase the speed of our customer’s products BUT like to challenge our own products at the same time. We have to eat our own dog food.:)

Were you successful? 

I hope to be! I assume we will be as Frank wanted not only to double the speed but also increase the reliability!!!! My first thought was…..wow, I think I will quit. You have a machine at a particular speed, you start to analyze what the flaws are of the existing machine and see how you can improve. For example, some of the black bodies were very heavy, somehow we had to change the dynamics of the mass of the black body source. ce. And we did. This was a GREAT team process.

What makes you tick?

 If you love what you do, you do not know how to quit. I have an insatiable curiosity in ALL things. Therefore, I keep on learning. My love for history is a major interest. I take courses at Regis College three times a week: How the West was won, Creative writing and Word. Next to that I paint, carve, and build ship models.

Wow, you have no time left to be bored! How many hours do you work in the office?

 I drive to the Exergen office on Tuesday where I work from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The other days I work 3 hours from home. 

So you can look back at a lot of history. Is there something we can learn from the past?

 Not really, I just finished a book on Custer. We try to make “things better” but obviously we never really learn. Next to that, situations are completely different. The Greeks and the Romans did not have any electronics. We do. It is that simple.