Alumnus James Babcock Gives Back

James Babcock

James Babcock

Jim Babcock joined RAND in 1954, a mathematician brought in to work as a programmer in the Computer Sciences Department. “It’s probably the best place I ever worked in my life,” he says now, 87 years old and retired in Texas. “I was meeting the most famous scientists in the world, talking about a wealth of ideas. It really directed the rest of my life and my career."

Babcock worked in the computer sciences department until 1965, feeding punch cards into the old IBM main frames. His time at RAND also gave him a firsthand look at the success of JOHNNIAC, especially as a time-shared computer processor. He later worked as a contractor to fine-tune an early programming language that RAND invented called IPL—widely known as a precursor to LISP, a system used in early research into artificial intelligence.

He also collaborated at RAND with research physicists on systems related to nuclear weapon designs and testing. One program he worked on, for example, analyzed weather patterns ahead of nuclear bomb tests in the atmosphere of the Nevada desert to make sure no ranchers were in harm’s way of fallout patterns.

Babcock went on to a successful career in the telecommunications industry. He credits his time at RAND—and the “cornucopia of knowledge” that he experienced here—for making that possible. “You can’t stay there and work there without having some of that brush off on you and having you set your sights for the rest of your life,” he says.

He recently decided to leave a bequest in his estate plans to benefit RAND, becoming a new member of RAND's Legacy Society; he also has supported RAND’s alumni impact fund. His goal, he said, was to advance the cause of knowledge that helped shape his career, and the careers of so many others.

“It all started with RAND,” he said. “I wish in some ways that I’d never left.”

To learn more about the RAND Legacy Society and how a planned gift can impact RAND and provide financial benefits to you, contact Lynne Slattery in the Office of Development: or (310) 393-0411, x6901.