Dr. Rocco Martino was a brilliant, eclectic overachiever who transformed society but remained unknown beyond a small group of admiring cognoscenti. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are household names; many know of Jack Kilby, who invented the microchip, and Larry Ellison of Oracle. But Dr. Martino, a Canadian scientist who died June 29, arguably did as much to shape our modern world as a host of better-known people.
Dr. Martino, who was known as Rocky, was never content to restrict his drive and intellect to a single field. Over the course of his career he paved the way for human space flight, facilitated the design of complex construction projects, and laid the footings for the smartphone years before its commercial debut. His low profile was due in large part to his prescience: As a rule he was so close to the cutting edge in whatever discipline he pursued that few of his colleagues could grasp what he was doing.