Sandia physicist, cleanroom inventor dies at 92

November 27, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Willis Whitfield, an award-winning physicist known for inventing the modern-day cleanroom, has died. He was 92.

Sandia National [auth] Laboratories, where Whitfield worked for three decades, announced Monday that Whitfield died in Albuquerque on Nov. 12.

Lab President Paul Hommert says Whitfield’s concept for a new kind of cleanroom came at the right time during the early 1960s to usher in a new era of electronics, health care and scientific research.

Dubbed Mr. Clean, Whitfield was born in Rosedale, Okla. He was the son of a cotton farmer.

Whitfield had his initial drawings for the new cleanroom by the end of 1960. His solution for dealing with the turbulent airflow and particles found in cleanrooms of the day was to constantly flush out the room with highly filtered air.

Sandia says within a couple of years, $50 billion worth of cleanrooms had been built worldwide.

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