Silvio Osvaldo Navarro
30 October 1927 – 3 April 1967
The Computing, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering
professions mourn the loss of a leader, Silvio O. Navarro. At the time
of his tragic death he was the Director of the Computing Center,
Chairman of the Department of Computer Science, and Associate
Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Kentucky. His
influence was international and commensurate with his productivity and
insight which were inspirations to those who knew him.
Silvio was born in Cuba where he received the José Marti Award
as the nation’s outstanding student. At the age of nineteen he
entered the University of Houston where he received a B.S. in
Electrical Engineering in 1951. He then attended Texas A & M where
he received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1953 and
1955 respectively. He remained at Texas A & M as an instructor and
later as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and
Assistant Research Engineer.
This marked the beginning of a colorful, although short, career in
which he blazed a trail that remains a challenge for men of greater
In 1959, Dr. Navarro came to Kentucky as an Associate Professor of
Electrical Engineering and Assistant Director of the Computing Center.
He assisted in the establishment of the University of Kentucky
Computing Center. In 1960, he was named Assistant Director of the
Project on Computers in Engineering Education sponsored by the Ford
Foundation at the University of Michigan which has proved to be a
great success and is considered a milestone in the use of computers in
engineering education. Silvio was appointed Director of the University
of Kentucky Computing Center in 1961.
Silvio Navarro was an outstanding lecturer and teacher of both digital
and analog computer fundamentals, techniques, design, and research
thereof. His work was so outstanding that his services were constantly
sought by groups all over the world. Sponsored by UNESCO in 1965, he
was one of the organizers of the Computing Center at the University of
Concepción in Chile, South America. He spent the summer of that
year in Concepción lecturing to the faculty, preparing course
outlines, organizing a program library, and aiding in the general
implementation of the new Center. In the summer of 1966, he returned
to South America again as a UNESCO consultant for a lecture and
consulting tour of four universities in Chile. While there, he wrote
various text materials in Spanish to permit fast absorption by the
students. He also lectured at the National University of México
on the use of computers in simulation and in biomedical areas. He had
anticipated a similar tour this summer to México and Chile for
UNESCO and to Brazil for the international program at the University
of Houston. Dr. Navarro also aided in the organization of the First
Latin American Symposium of the Academic Scientific Centers of
Calculation in which he planned to participate in September 1967...
He made many contributions to texts including his chapter on a
hypothetical SAMOS computer in the Stanford Mathematical Study Group
(SMSG) computer text, Algorithms, Computation, and Mathematics,
presently used in many schools. He published numerous articles and
papers for dozens of journals and symposia. His most recent article on
future biomedical computers resulted in over 400 reprint requests from
all over the world. He had only recently consented to assist in
another computer education project sponsored by the American Society
for Engineering Education.
He generously gave his time as a visiting lecturer at other
universities. These included NSF Advance Science Seminars in Houston,
the Conference for Engineering Executives in Texas, and the Computer
Workshop for Biomedical Researchers in Michigan.
Silvio personally developed a unique computer language for the IBM
650, methods for the automatic programming and simplification of
analog computer circuits, automatic dispatching of electrical systems,
and was instrumental in establishing one of the first
computer-operated electrical systems in the United States. He designed
and built the Texas Engineering Experiment Station electronic analog
computer and applied himself to statistical prediction of transformer
demand, phase balancing, voltage spread, power loss, solution of
differential equations, Bessel functions, elliptic integrals and
factor analytic techniques. He developed and first taught three
computer courses at the University of Kentucky in the Department of
Electrical Engineering and proposed, justified, and developed a
curriculum in Computer Science at the University which resulted in the
creation of the new Department of Computer Science.
Silvio was President of the Lexington Section of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronic Engineers, past President of the Kentucky
Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, listed in American
Men of Science, and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences,
Sigma Xi, Pi Mu Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, National Society
of Professional Engineers, and the Kiwanis Club.
Above all else, Silvio Navarro was an extraordinarily warm and sincere
human being who thoroughly knew the meaning of human dignity which was
evidenced by both his approach to family, friends, and associates in
his daily life, and also in his deep-rooted understanding of the true
value of a democratic society. He identified with people living under
dictatorships and spent a great deal of time explaining the evils of
Communism which his family had experienced first hand. His door was
always open to refugees seeking the freedom that he so proudly
cherished in his naturalized American homeland.
Silvio was a devoted citizen of his country and even though his work
day was long, he felt a responsibility to participate in the affairs
of his country. He devoted many hours preparing and delivering talks
to various civic, religious, social, and professional groups in the
community. He did not wait for others to serve the needs of Lexington
but was always willing to do his part in community and in charitable
activities whether it involved standing in downtown Lexington on a
cold December Saturday ringing a Christmas bell or selling soft drinks
on a warm evening a the Kiwanis Fourth of July Fireworks Display.
Because of his accomplishments and our warmest personal feelings,
Silvio will live in our hearts and minds forever.
Silvio leaves behind a lovely wife, Ana Maria, and six wonderful
children, five boys and a girl whose ages range from four to twelve. A
Silvio O. Navarro Memorial fund has been established to aid in the
education of his children and is being administered by the First
Security National Bank and Trust Department, Lexington, Kentucky.
From the Kentucky Register, the newsletter of the Computing
Center, May 1967.