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Dickron H. Mergerian, laser scientist, dies

Dickron Haig Mergerian, a retired scientist who was a pioneer in the field of fiber optics, died of congestive heart failure Dec. 29 at Gilchrist Center-Hospice Care. He was 89 and lived in Towson.

Born in Bayside, N.Y., and raised in Flushing, he was the son of Haig Mergerian, a photo engraver, and his wife, Araxie. He attended New York City public schools and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Columbia University.

He joined the Army and was assigned to conduct research at Edgewood Arsenal. He then enrolled in graduate studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology and worked in early efforts to develop fiber optics.

Dr. Mergerian then went on to conduct his thesis research in electron paramagnetic resonance — electrons in solid materials and their reaction to high-frequency signals. He received the doctorate in physics from IIT in 1962.

“He was an outgoing fellow and he loved sports,” said a former co-worker of 33 years, Edward Malarkey, a Severna Park resident. “Every Monday morning during football season we had a wrap-up of the games and then we started to work.”

After receiving his doctorate, he became a physicist in the Applied Physics Group at what later became the Westinghouse Defense & Electronics Systems Center in Linthicum.

He worked at the Advanced Technology Laboratory on Nursery Road, where he continued electron paramagnetic resonance studies on various materials. He also investigated irreversible changes in the blood of patients in the state of shock.

Much of his work was in radar applications. He sought to identify the very weak signals emitted in a combat situation or in the surveillance of an enemy.

“He had broad capabilities and a deep understanding of what we were trying to do. He was basically a very good scientist,” said Mr. Malarkey, his work colleague.

Dr. Mergerian wrote a number of professional publications on spin echoes and was awarded 15 U.S. patents.

During his tenure at Westinghouse he became an advisory physicist in and then manager of Applied Physics Group, a post he held at his retirement in 1994.

He worked in optics and optical signal processing, laser research and development, and microwave spectroscopy.

In the mid-1970s, he headed his group’s development of the Westinghouse cylindrical laser, one of the most powerful laser devices ever constructed under private funding. The device was planned to be used for shooting down aircraft.

Dr. Mergerian received an IR 100 Award in 1982. The award was given by the editors of Industrial Research magazine and is known as an “Oscar of innovation.”

“We had fun one day when we had a family open house. He fired the laser every minute or two. It was invisible light and he aimed it down a long lab. There’d be a big pop noise at one end of the room and then there would be a bit of smoke on a piece of paper at the other,” said Mr. Malarkey.

Mr. Malarkey said Dr. Mergerian’s last major area of research involved optical computing and was directed toward the employment of optical or photonic components in ultra-high-speed information processing for radar and communications applications.

He enjoyed running, windsurfing and spending time at a vacation home in Salmon Lake in Maine. He was a fan of the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Hunts Memorial United Methodist Church, 1912 Old Court Road at West Joppa Road, Riderwood.

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Ann Gamjian, a homemaker; two sons, Jeff Mergerian of Abingdon and David Mergerian of Bel Air; three daughters, Terri Kingeter of Towson, Laurie Califano of Aberdeen and Julie Connelly of Bel Air; a sister, Alice Melkonian of Garden City, N.Y.; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and three step-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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