Electronics, engineering and an independent spirit seemed to run in the blood of Philip Hamlin Jr., a fiber-optics installation pioneer...
Electronics, engineering and an independent spirit seemed to run in the blood of Philip Hamlin Jr., a fiber-optics installation pioneer who helped lay glass cable everywhere from New York to Paris.
His dad, Philip Hamlin, 89, installed Seattle’s first cable-TV network in 1949 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. And from a young age, Mr. Hamlin began taking apart clocks and other devices around home, trying to figure out how they worked.
Mr. Hamlin died Wednesday from complications of type 2 diabetes. He was 60.
His brother, Harry Hamlin of Seattle, said Mr. Hamlin managed to increase the boost of turbochargers while tinkering with cars, developed amateur rocket fuels — “a process that involved inadvertently bombarding the city of Bremerton” when rockets he fired fell short of their intended destination in Puget Sound — and was attempting to build a helicopter near the end of his life.
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He never bothered to patent his inventions, his brother said. He would give some away or license them for a small sum before moving on to the next thing that captured his interest.
Mr. Hamlin was married and divorced three times and had three children.
At one point, after helping start a company that was sold to WorldCom, he was worth more than $100 million on paper, according to his father. But he lost everything in the dot-com crash.
“I don’t know if I would call him a genius, but he was very, very good at what he did,” said his father, who lives in Seattle. “He was self-taught: He learned everything from reading books.”
A high-school dropout, Mr. Hamlin obtained a trade-school certificate in broadcast engineering before leaving Seattle for Alaska as a young man. In Fairbanks, he landed a job with a local radio station. As well as troubleshooting engineering problems, Mr. Hamlin also became a popular late-night disc jockey.
He then was hired as a contractor to work on the Alyeska Pipeline project, where he taught himself how to install and repair instrument landing systems for planes.
He was recruited by the engineering firm Morrison Knudsen, where he rose to become vice president of communications. He helped construct the company’s first fiber-optic system in Washington, D.C. He then moved to rival Peter Kiewit Sons, where he became senior vice president of technology.
Along with some other engineers and managers, he helped launch a spinoff company called MFS Communications, bought by WorldCom in 1996 for $14.3 billion. He stayed at WorldCom a year, then formed another company called Level 3 Communications before retiring in 2001 in Golden, Colo.
His family say he was irreverent and rebellious his whole life. In the late 1990s, when riding his motorbike at 110 mph, he collided with a vulture and broke several ribs and ruptured his spleen, his brother said. The injuries continued to bother him the remainder of his life.
As well as his brother and father, Mr. Hamlin is survived by his sister, Hatti Hamlin, of Orinda, Calif.; and his children, David Hamlin, of Seattle; Nicole Hamlin, of Golden, Colo.; and Robert Hamlin, of Omaha, Neb.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 4 at “The Cove” at Normandy Park Community Club, at the west end of Southwest Shorebrook Drive, Normandy Park. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions in Mr. Hamlin’s name be sent to the Humane Society for Seattle/King County.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or email@example.com