small logo Remembering:

The SETI League's Co-Founder
by Vicki Nararra

If Orville N. Greene were alive today, he'd have just three words for you: plastics, computers, SETI.

Orville N. Greene (circa 1974) Orville Greene was born to one of the last romantics who sought gold in California, in the city of gold, Oroville (from which birthplace Orville's first name was derived). When Orville first went to Washington, D.C., to work as a patent examiner in the US Patent Office, after receiving a degree in Chemistry at Lehigh University, computers were nonexistent, and the only plastics that existed were hard bakelite and soft celluloid. Today we all accept the existence of the computer and the various useful and beautiful plastics that are ever present in our lives.

During Orville's tenure as a patent examiner, there was a vast explosion of new plastic concepts, and the world suddenly had vinyls (Naugahyde), clear acrylics (Lucite), and butyrals (the present transparent windshield safety-glass sandwich). In his role as a patent examiner Orville, impressed by the potential use and value of these new plastic concepts, passed many of these applications to issue as patents. Also during this time, Orville earned a law degree, attending George Washington Law School at night.

From his position as a patent examiner, Orville gained experience in patent, trademark and copyright law, and entered private practice as a patent attorney in New York, where he started his own patent law firm.

Orville developed patents on certain inventions of a gifted, ceramic scientist rushed out of East Germany, just in front of the Russians' advance. These inventions resulted in a brand-new product: the ferrite memory cores which made the first (and consequently all modern-day) computers possible. The computer, of course, is largely responsible for the massive wave of scientific advances in recent years.

In 1979, together with his law partner, Frank L. Durr, Orville co-authored with John Bereseth The Practical Inventor's Handbook, the first work of its kind to discuss frankly the opportunities and pitfalls in developing an invention.

In the early 1970s, Orville entered the music business, when he and a partner acquired a recording studio in New York City, and a rhythm and blues recording company. Along with another partner (highly skilled audio and electronics expert Richard Factor) this music business led, in turn, to the formation of a new company for the manufacture of professional audio equipment. Their company achieved worldwide recognition and fame as the manufacturer of digital sound special effects equipment. Today, Eventide Inc. is a leading manufacturer of audio and broadcast products, as well as logging recorders and avionics. It was Factor (who now serves as SETI League President) with whom Orville co-founded The SETI League, Inc. in 1994.

In 1955, Orville was appointed by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to the Board of Visitors of the Otisville State Training School for Boys (a New York State reformatory). He served as a member, and later President, of that Board until 1970. From 1974 until his death in 1997, Orville served as a member, and then vice president, of the Board of Visitors of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center (New York Department of Mental Hygiene), having been appointed by New York Governor Malcolm Wilson.

As an enthusiast in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and to fulfill his dream of the time when we will achieve contact, it was Orville, with his extremely generous donations to The SETI League, who helped give it its start. To ensure its future, he has also generously and substantially provided ongoing support to meet its financial needs. Through the time, energy, and efforts of SETI League members around the world, we are coming ever closer to confirming Orville's dream that "We are not alone."

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