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Former GE Medical Head Walter Robb Dies Of COVID-19

Walter Robb, who led GE’s medical imaging division in the 1970s and 1980s, has died of COVID-19 disease. Under his tenure, GE made major advances in medical imaging instrumentation, including the development of CT, MRI, and ultrasound.

Robb died of organ failure related to COVID-19 on March 23 after falling ill on Sunday, according to a March 23 article in the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY. He was 92.

Walter Robb

Walter Robb. Photo courtesy of Clarkson University.

Robb joined General Electric in 1951 and initially worked at the company’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Schenectady. He then moved to the company’s GE Medical Systems division (now GE Healthcare) in Milwaukee and was head of the division from 1973 to 1986.

During his tenure at the helm of GE’s medical business, the division grew into a global powerhouse and developed many of the technologies that form the basis of advanced imaging today, such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound.

Robb left GE Medical Systems in 1986 but stayed within the GE fold, moving back to New York state and becoming the first engineer to be appointed director of GE Global Research in Schenectady, according to the Daily Gazette article. He retired in 1993.

Robb received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Bill Clinton in 1993 for his work in CT and MRI. On retirement, Robb became an active philanthropist and also owned several minor league sports franchises.

“Walt Robb was a true builder in every sense of the word with GE,” said Vic Abate, chief technology officer at GE and leader of the Global Research division. “As CEO of GE Healthcare and later head of the Research Lab in the late 1980s and early ’90s, he led the growth of new Healthcare businesses in MR and CT imaging and greatly strengthened the connectivity between the Lab and GE’s businesses in advancing cutting edge technologies.”

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