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updated: 2/20/2013 10:05 AM

Academy honors Motorola mobile phone pioneer

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The National Academy of Engineering named Martin Cooper, leader of the Libertyville Motorola team that developed the first mobile phone, as the recipient of the Charles Stark Draper Prize, the academy's top honor.

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Cooper, along with a small group of other engineers, were all recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. for their early research in cellular phones, which opened the door to the era of mobile telecommunications and, ultimately, mobile computing.

On April 3, 1973, Cooper became the first person to successfully make a handheld cellphone call in public. At the time, Cooper was general manager of Motorola's Communications Systems Division and leader of a team of engineers that had been working on mobile communication technologies. Standing on Sixth Avenue in New York City, before going into a news conference, Cooper placed the groundbreaking call using a Motorola DynaTAC -- a device that weighed 2.2 lbs., had 35 minutes of talk-time and a battery life of 20 minutes, all of which was revolutionary at the time.

"Long before we messaged people in real-time, had instant maps for anywhere, or streamed movies on our smartphones, Martin Cooper and his team laid the foundations of mobile phone technology," said Iqbal Arshad, SVP, Global Product Development, Motorola Mobility. "When we look at everything that's been accomplished thanks to the hard work of Martin and his team, we can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor."

Widely regarded as the Nobel Prize for engineering, the Charles Stark Draper Prize was established and endowed by Draper Laboratory in 1988 to honor its founder, Dr. Charles Stark Draper, who pioneered inertial navigation. The award recognizes those who have contributed to the advancement of engineering and aims to help improve public awareness of the importance of engineering and technology.

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