Samuel Robinson Phillips, age 87, a loving husband, father, and grandfather, passed away on March 8, 2023, in the company of his loved ones, who will continue to honor his memory. Sam was born on April 8, 1935, into a military family in Long Beach, CA. He was the only child of Rear Admiral Neill Phillips and Pauline Shaw Holseart. As Sam’s father served during WWII in the South Pacific, Sam spent his early life with his grandmother, Clare Phillips, in Newport, Arkansas.
Sam attended Brook’s School in Andover, MA. While pursuing his education, Sam had several colorful summer jobs including: his photograph gracing the cover of a romance magazine, employment as a hand model, working in a cannery, and spending a memorable summer traveling with a carnival where he slept on a python cage. These diverse employment opportunities made Sam committed to his education and he obtained his bachelors and masters degrees in engineering and mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
Sam was the perfect combination of Atticus Finch and MacGyver. Like Atticus Finch, he always found the perfect words to lovingly convey the importance of a life lesson whether it was one of morality or practicality. Like MacGyver he could fix anything. Given a barrel of a ballpoint pen, a wad of chewing gum, and a 9V battery, he could probably build a nuclear reactor and patent it too.
He had 60-plus years of experience as a mechanical engineer and consultant in engineering design, development and production. During his career he improved the manufacturing and reliability of implantable artificial hearts, developed, and introduced the first mass-produced product to use the diode laser, designed the cryogenic probe to treat prostate cancer using minimally invasive surgery, and helped develop a commonly used pacemaker. Sam’s talents were not limited to medical developments, his work in cryogenics helped to put a man on the moon. Sam served as an expert witness in patent disputes all over the world. He had many passions that included obtaining his commercial pilot’s license, seaplanes, and running. He was most proud of racing in the The Dipsea and Bay to Breakers. He also published “Torn By War,” an ancestor’s civil war diary.
Samuel will be remembered as a soft-spoken, hardworking, selfless, and brilliant man who had a strong passion for his career and worked until his last day. Samuel is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mitzi and two daughters Amanda, Amelia and her triplets. He was very proud of his grandchildren Wyatt, Garrett and Kelly who continue to follow his legacy of acts of service who are pursuing careers in the U.S. Army and attending nursing school. He touched the lives of everyone around him, but most importantly their hearts. Our condolences to those that never had the pleasure of his company.
Continuing with his love of science, he donated his body to U.C. Davis furthering the education of those who came after him. In lieu of flowers please donate to the American Red Cross.