Martin Cooper Biography

(Inventor of First Cellular Mobile Phone)

Birthday: December 26, 1928 (Capricorn)

Born In: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Known widely as the Father of the Hand-Held Cellular Phone, American inventor, entrepreneur, and author Martin Cooper has revolutionized the telecommunications industry by inventing the portable cell phone. While he initially worked as a submarine officer in the US Navy and even served in the Korean War, Cooper later joined the telecommunications industry. He spent 29 years at Motorola, working on various projects, and even headed the R&D division as its director. Competing against AT&T, Cooper invented Motorola’s portable phone DynaTAC, improving on the car-phones of his era. It was launched in the market as the DynaTAC 8000x, the world’s first portable cell phone. He made the world’s first cell phone call to the head of AT&T’s rival project, Joel Engel. Cooper and his wife, Arlene Harris, later co-founded many companies, such as Dyna LLC. He has received many awards and honors, such as the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Marty Cooper

Age: 95 Years, 95 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Arlene Harris (m. 1991)

father: Arthur Cooper

mother: Mary Cooper

siblings: Will Cooper

children: Will Cooper

Born Country: United States

Engineers Business People

U.S. State: Illinois

More Facts

education: Illinois Institute Of Technology

Childhood, Early Life & Education

Martin Cooper, also known as Marty Cooper, was born on December 26, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, US, to Ukrainian Jewish immigrant parents. He initially attended the Crane Technical High School.

In 1950, Cooper graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Following this, he joined the US Navy and served in the Korean War, as a submarine officer.

In 1957, he obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT. Later, in 2004, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the same institute.

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Following the Korean War, Martin Cooper joined the Teletype Corporation. In 1954, he joined Motorola. While at Motorola, Cooper worked on countless projects related to wireless communications. Once such project was the first radio-controlled traffic-light system, which Cooper patented in 1960.

He also worked on the first hand-held police radios and introduced them in 1967. From 1978 to 1983, he served as a vice president and director of R&D at Motorola. He then became the first person to create a mobile phone that used radio communication to send and receive signals.

Mobile phones were launched by the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1946. However, due to the limited number of channels available, users would often have to wait to use the system.

Similarly, a lot of power was needed to run them and that could only be supplied by car batteries. Thus, there were only car phones.

In 1947, AT&T engineers W. Rae Young and Douglas H. Ring proved how by breaking a large area into smaller cells could enable more mobile users to use the facility. Later, AT&T devised a cellular technology to expand its car-phone service.

Motorola feared it would suffer due to AT&T’s monopoly on cell phones. Thus, they placed Cooper in charge of the project to work on a cell phone.

Cooper believed his cell phone should be portable and not attached to a car. He worked on the cellular network idea, to work on a mobile phone technology that would move from tower to tower giving an uninterrupted signal.

This resulted in the DynaTAC (Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage) phone, which measured 23 cm (9 inches) in height and weighed 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds). One could talk on it for 35 minutes before its battery was exhausted. It also took 10 hours to recharge.

On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper launched the DynaTAC phone at a New York press conference. To test the phone before the conference, he made the first public cell phone call, to the head of AT&T’s rival project, engineer Joel Engel, from a Manhattan street.

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In 1983, after a lot of modification, Motorola launched the world’s first portable cell phone, the DynaTAC 8000x. Though priced at $3,995, the phone was successful in the market.

The same year, Cooper quit Motorola and launched Cellular Business Systems, Inc. (CBSI). His company soon turned into the leading player in billing cellular phone market.

In 1986, Cooper, along with his partners, sold CBSI to Cincinnati Bell for $23 million. He then focused on Dyna, LLC., a company he co-founded with his wife, Arlene.

Apart from inventing the mobile phone, Cooper also devised the Law of Spectral Capacity, also known as Cooper's Law. He has also been on various US Government advisory committees, such the Department of Commerce CSMAC and the FCC Technological Advisory Council. Cooper also has 11 patents under his belt.

He is also known for his essays and articles that have been widely published. In 2021, he released his book Cutting the Cord, which related how the cell phone has transformed the world.

Personal Life

Martin Cooper is married to Arlene Joy Harris since 1991. Arlene is an inventor, entrepreneur, and investor in the telecommunications industry.

Along with Arlene, he has co-founded many wireless technology companies, such as Cellular Business Systems, GreatCall, SOS Wireless Communications, and ArrayCom (1996). Cooper and Arlene also co-founded Dyna LLC, a start-up incubator in the wireless technology field.

Cooper and Arlene live in Del Mar, California. Cooper has two children, four grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

Awards & Recognitions

In 2013, Martin Cooper joined the National Academy of Engineering and received the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering. The same year, he received the Marconi Prize for his vision in the wireless industry. In 2000, he was named one of the Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the year by Red Herring magazine.

He was named to the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also inducted into the WHF Wireless Hall of Fame.

He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radio Club of America in 2010. He is also a lifetime member of the IEEE, has presided over its Vehicular Technology Society, and was awarded their Centennial Medal, too. Time magazine named him to its list of the 100 Best Inventors in History in 2007.

He was named a Transformation Technology Change Leader by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Business. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2010. He also bagged the Prince of Asturias Prize for Science and Technology, the same year.

In 2011, he was nominated for the Mikhail Gorbachev: The Man Who Changed the World Award. He is also part of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Apart from the IIT, he has received honorary degrees from the Inha University in Korea, Strathclyde University in Scotland, and Hasselt University in Belgium.

See the events in life of Martin Cooper in Chronological Order

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