Arch W. Naylor: In Memoriam (1929 – 2022)

Arch Naylor helped introduce the developing field of information and control engineering at Michigan.
Arch W. Naylor

Arch Naylor (PHD EE 1960), professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science who helped usher in the fields of information and control engineering at Michigan, passed away May 3, 2022 at the age of 92.

Professor Naylor received his B.S. degree in 1952 from the University of California at Berkeley. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to the University of California for graduate work from 1955-56. From 1957-58, Professor Naylor was a Fulbright Scholar at Technical University, Delft, Netherlands, after which he entered the University of Michigan, where he earned his Ph.D. degree in 1960. He joined the faculty as assistant professor of electrical engineering that same year.

While a graduate student at Michigan, Professor Naylor worked as a research associate with the Electronics Defense Group at the Cooley Electronics Laboratory. His research in control systems has been internationally recognized, and he maintained visiting faculty appointments at institutions around the world for much of his career. These include the Technical University at Delft (1963-64), the Laboratoire d’Automatique at the Université de Grenoble (1967-78), the University of Chile (1969), and the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique en Automatique in Versailles, France (1989). In addition, he always maintained an active involvement in industry, working at the Collins Radio Company while a student at Berkeley, at Phillips Company while studying in The Netherlands, and as a consultant to numerous firms throughout his career.

Professor Naylor helped introduce the developing field of information and control engineering at Michigan, and in 1965, with Prof. Keki Irani, formed the Systems Engineering Laboratory in the department. The Lab brought together the fields of automatic control, communications, computers, and information and energy systems.

Throughout his career, Naylor directed numerous research programs, introduced important graduate courses, such as Function Space Methods in System Theory, and published extensively in technical journals.

He also co-authored the textbook, Linear Operator Theory in Engineering and Science (1971; 2nd printing in 2000). One of Naylor’s most illustrious doctoral students was Turing Award winner Michael Stonebraker (MSE EE 1966; PHD CICE 1971). The governor’s High Technology Task Force appointed him acting director of the Michigan Industrial Technology Institute during its formative period from 1982-83.

After a distinguished career lasting 34 years, Naylor retired in 1994 and moved to Paris where he took up a variety of languages, including ancient Semitic languages. He even wrote a computer program to help others interpret the ancient form of writing on clay tablets known as cunieform.

Professor Emeritus Yuri Gurevich recalls the time he spent as an office neighbor to his friend Arch, and the times they met up later in Paris:

For a while, Arch Naylor was my neighbor in the sense that his office was next to mine. When was it? Around 1990 I think.

Arch was fond of computer science theory and sometimes would drop by to discuss it. We had friendly relations. He wasn't shy to advise. I remember him teaching me the basics of the US academic life. "Every colleague is wise," he said, "by definition, even and especially in the case of disagreement." I do not remember what provoked this advice, probably something that I said. 

As a rule, he was in his office till about 5 pm. Then he would go home, leaving the office door ajar. One Friday he left about 5 pm, as usual, and he has never came back.
The very next morning he flew to Paris, France, his retirement place.

A bit later I was in Paris and called him up. We went to a beautiful left-bank cafe. I looked at the wine menu. "I don't drink," said Arch, "I grew out of it. At certain age, you want to demonstrate your sophistication. I am not that age anymore." 

I asked why he choose Paris for his retirement. He said that he liked great cities which are safe. Besides, he had been involved with various French institutions and, by the time of his retirement, qualified for French health services. 

He said that he became interested in linguistics and was attending a linguistic seminar. 

In the following years, we met several more times, always in Paris. He seemed quite content. 

I will miss Arch. He was a good man, a wise man. 
May he rest in peace!

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers its condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Arch Naylor and expresses its gratitude for his many years of dedication and service to his students, colleagues and the University of Michigan. 

Obituary, MLive