Thursday, June 28, 2012

Michael Sokolski, 1926 - 2012

Regardless of how you feel about the invention for which Mr. Sokolski is primarily known, everyone out there has to admit that he's had a huge impact on all of our lives. Inasmuch as any obituary can relate in a relatively small space (and unfortunately, I speak from experience), it also appears that he had a very eventful life.

Rest in peace, Mr. Sokolski.

"In 1972, Michael moved to Santa Ana and married Joanne W. Mayo on July 2, 1972. That year, he founded Scan-Tron where he served as Executive Vice President of Engineering. As the engineer inventor of the multiple question, #2 pencil tests, Michael Sokolski revolutionized the method in which students, from all over the world, contend with test taking. He held multiple optical mark reading U. S. patents."

The complete obituary from the Orange County Register.


  1. Another influential Polish-Russian: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who was a father of astronautics. He came up with gas rudders for rocket control, nozzle design, experimenting with different sorts of fuel, developing separate tanks for reactive fuels, using pumps to get the fuels to a combustion chamber, developing the "ideal rocket equation" (aka the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation) and envisioning the space elevator, among other inventions.

    "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever."
    - K. Tsiolkovsky

    1. And he did this in 1903, when many newspapers didn't cover the story of the Wright brothers' first flight, because they didn't believe it. Anytime I imagine a visionary space concept, something that might affect humanity for millennia to come, I read through the works of Tsiolkovsky, to check whether he thought of it first, such as O'Neill colonies or solar sailing.

      Come to think of it, what are the chances that Scantrons will have a similar influence?

  2. And the guy must have made a crapload of money, if he held various patents for Scantrons. Not even 10 years ago, I had to formally request and justify the number of Scantron sheets I wanted for a midterm or exam e.g. "prove" to someone in a central office somewhere, solely dedicated to doling out Scantrons, that my class enrollment was equal to the number of Scantron sheets I wanted, and I couldn't ask for a single extra sheet, because apparently 'each Scantron sheet cost the university quite a bit of money'. Sheesh.

    1. Odd that they would cost so much for the university. Mine required students to purchase them from the bookstore in groups of six or ten, for $0.15 or $0.25 per sheet in those groups, depending on whether they were half or full sheets.

    2. Perhaps I'm overreacting (or overly cynical), but putting students in charge of their own Scantron sheets sounds like a phenomenally terrible idea on sooo many levels...

    3. It's standard practice at my school, too, and as far as I know (I've never given a scantron test), it works. We have vending machines that dole out the packs, which probably makes things easier. Selling multiple forms at once allows students who remember to be either benevolent or entrepreneurial to their less-prepared comrades -- an important part, I suspect, of the system.

      Also, when students are really, really convinced they have to be prepared for something (especially a "real" test -- i.e. one that resembles the high-stakes testing which has been a refrain throughout their academic lives), they tend to be.

      RIP, indeed, Mr. Sokolski. I hope (and suspect) that the process of creating the Scantron involved solving a lot of intriguing problems, theoretical and practical -- unlike, sadly, most Scantron tests.


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