C. Harry Knowles


Harry Knowles

2006 COSAM Distinguished Alumnus

C. Harry Knowles '51

C. Harry Knowles, physics '51, was born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1928 and passed away on January 7, 2020, in Moorestown, New Jersey. 

He enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (later Auburn University) in 1945 and, after his freshman year, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years. He then returned to Auburn, where he earned a varsity letter in wrestling under legendary coach Swede Umbach and organized, in 1950, the campus' first chapter of the national physics honorary, Sigma Pi Sigma, for which Knowles served as chapter president. Knowles was also vice president of the student government, serving three months as president, editor of the 1951 Glomerata and Auburn's nominee for Rhodes Scholar. Knowles earned a master's degree in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1953, and, in May 2008, Auburn University recognized his distinguished career by awarding him an honorary doctorate.

Over the course of his career, he worked with Bell Labs, Motorola and Westinghouse before founding Metrologic Instruments in 1968. Metrologic would become a global, industry leader in laser and bar code scanner manufacturing over the course of the next 40 years. Named on 400 U.S. patents, Knowles counts several major firsts among his inventions, including the first programmable bar code scanner, the first handheld laser scanner, and the first mini-slot scanner, among others. Metrologic's devices are used in supermarkets, retail stores, libraries and airports, and can be found in more than 100 different countries. In recognition of these achievements, Knowles and Metrologic Instruments were inducted into the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame. Knowles continued as a driving force behind the development of new technologies at Metrologic until his retirement in 2006. Metrologic is now apart of Honeywell International, Inc.

In 1998, he endowed the Howard and Carolyn Carr Chair in Physics in appreciation of Dr. and Mrs. Carr's influence during his student tenure. In further support of education, the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation was established and endowed in 1999 by Knowles.  KSTF is strengthening science and mathematics teaching in grades 9-12 in the U.S. The foundation supports individuals and programs designed to encourage and sustain young scientists and mathematicians as they dedicate their lives to teaching.

Knowles was an avid sailor, photographer, pilot, and astronomy buff.