The Famous Bulgarians: Peter Petroff

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Productivity at its finest: from NASA and Apollo 4 to medicine and the human heart

After graduating in electrical engineering at what is now the Stuttgart University, Petroff sets off to work on arctic engineering and construction projects for the US. “It’s cold.” (direct quote from the early 1950’s during his time in Goose Bay, Labrador) He then decided to try a milder climate and headed to Indochina to work on bridge and power-plant construction projects and in 1959 he built his own catamaran and sailed all the way to Florida. There he began work on space projects and showed them who’s boss by designing weather and communications satellites and organizing the company’s semiconductor division. In 1963 he receives the equivalent of a “wanna hang?” text from Wernher von Braun – an invite to join his squad over at NASA and work on the “Apollo 4” program to build the Saturn rockets. NBD. Not only was NASA his employer, but Boeing and Northrop – the contractors! A few years later, he starts his own company, Care Electronics, and using the skill set he gained from the space program, he constructs the first ever wireless heart monitor.

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What do stars and wristwatches have in common?

If you’re one of those people who still struggle to tell the time on an analog clock, you have Peter Petroff to thank for making your life a whole lot easier. His company Care Electrinics eventually evolved into Electro/Data and is responsible for creating the prototype of the first digital wristwatch. It was named after the pulsating radio star (or pulsar), which emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation at regular intervals. See what he did there? The device was marketed by the Hamilton Watch Company and sold for the whopping $2100 in 1971! Only a few years later he founded another company, this time with his sons, and began manufacturing “computerized pollution monitoring equipment for the world market.”  

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