Tektronix founder’s centennial prompts ode to STEM education

A University of Portland electrical engineering professor honors Melvin Murdock’s legacy with a series of math puzzles.

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Melvin Jack Murdock, a co-founder and vice president of Oregon’s seminal tech company, Tektronix, was born on August 15, 1917 in Portland. On Tuesday of this week he would have been 100 years old.

Murdock was elected as Chairman of the Board in 1960 and held this position until his unexpected death on May 16, 1971, at age 53, in a float plane accident on the Columbia River. His body was never recovered.


Murdock was both an idealist and a realist, and relentlessly sought new insights in all areas of his life. He believed in science as a main source of knowledge and in knowledge as a key ingredient to addressing and solving our world’s issues and challenges.

He was thoroughly unpretentious, soft-spoken and a considerate listener, possessing a rare combination of good judgement, hard work, tolerance, commitment to life-learning and scrupulous honesty. During his lifetime, Murdock practiced philanthropy through his own private foundation, which was later merged with the Murdock Trust.

7104 from 1979 copyTektronix products, past and future

In honor of the centennial b-day, I prepared the following 17 brainteasers:

  1. The rightmost two digits Murdock’s birth year (1917) equals 17 and the rightmost two digits of 1971, the year Murdock died, equals 71, which is the reverse of 17.
  2. Moreover, 1917 equals 71 times 27 where 27 is the reverse of 72, which equals 71 plus one.
  3. Additionally, 1971 equals 27 times 73 where 73 is one greater than 72.
  4. Melvin Jack Murdock consists of 17 letters.
  5. Further, Murdock is made of 7 letters where the 7th prime number is 17 too.
  6. If numbers one to 26 are assigned to the letters of the English alphabet as A being one, B being two, C being three, etc., the sum of the numbers assigned to Murdock equals 85 which is five times 17.
  7. Murdock was born on 8/15 where the sum of the squares of 8 and 15 equals 17 square.
  8. Furthermore, 8 and 15 differ by 7 and again, the 7th prime number is 17.
  9. Murdock died at age 53 where the sum of the squares of the digits of 53 equals twice 17.
  10. Also, the product of the digits of 53 equals 15 with its reverse being 51 which equals three times 17.
  11. If Murdock’s birthday 8/15/1917 is split as 8, 15, 19, and 17, the sum of these four numbers equals 59 which is the 17th prime number.
  12. Murdock died on the 136th day of 1971 (May 16, 1971) where 136 equals eight times 17.
  13. The sum and the product of the digits of 53, the age Murdock died, yield 8 and 15 respectively where 8 and 15 put side by side make his birth date, 8/15.
  14. If the year of Murdock’s centennial birthday 2017 is split into 20 and 17, the 20th prime number is 71, which is the reverse of 17.
  15. 2017 is the 306th prime number where 306 equals 17 times 18 where 18 is one greater than 17.
  16. The 44th anniversary of Murdock’s death expressed as 5/16/15 was a palindrome date. Murdock’s 101st birthday next year expressed as 8/15/18 will also be a palindrome date.
  17. Lastly, the product of the digits of Murdock’s birthday 8/15/1917 equals 2520 which is the smallest number divisible by all integers from one to 10.

Happy 100th birthday, Jack Murdock!

Aziz S. Inan is professor & chair of the University of Portland electrical engineering department.