EXPIRED: 11/01/09 – Robert Rines, 87, was a lawyer and inventor and composer. But most of all he was a dreamer. And he dreamed of nothing more than seeing the Loch Ness Monster…a second time.
He’d already seen Nessie once, and dedicated the last 37 years of his life to seeing her again.
In his pursuit of trying to take a photo of Nessie to prove she existed, Mr. Rines invented prototype radar and sonar technology that was also incorporated in ultrasound imaging of internal organs. He donated the radar patent to the government and gave the patent to the rest of the world to use for free.
He held more than 80 patents. The radar technology patent — developed while he was a student at MIT — was eventually used to guide Patriot missiles during the 1991 Gulf War and produce early warning missile-detection systems.
In 1985, researchers used underwater vessels with sonar technology developed by Rines to find the Titanic, which sank in more than 12,400 feet of water in 1912. The systems were used to find the wreck of the German battleship Bismarck, which was sunk in World War II. Rines’ inventions also became key parts of long-range navigation systems, in which sea vessels and aircraft are located by determining the time difference between pulsed radio transmissions from two stations.
Interestingly, he almost didn’t stay the course as an inventor. He also had a very passionate side career as a composer of musicals. Rines wrote music for more than 10 Broadway and off-Broadway productions and won an Emmy for his work on a piece about former NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
Perhaps his tastes for creating music and inventing intertwined when as an eleven year old boy he was playing violin at a summer camp in Maine. A member of the audience was impressed and borrowed a violin to join the young Rines in a duet. Thatinterloper happened to be Albert Einstein.
But it was a trip to Scotland in 1971 that changed his life. There he met Nessie. He went back to the Scottish lake every few years, hoping to use better imaging and tracking technology to capture sharper images of the animal. He previously said it looked like a plesiosaur, a dinosaur that lived underwater millions of years ago.
“It was maybe 45 feet in length with a neck 4 or 5 feet long, according to eyewitness accounts,” he once said. It became his life’s work. His underwater photographs of Loch Ness hang in the American Inventors Hall of Fame along with a painting of how he imagined Nessie might look.