Guru & Geezer: A Celebration of the Life of Martin Cotton

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Editor's Note: The industry lost one of the good ones last weekend when Martin Cotton passed away. Martin not only spent 50 years on the cutting edge of PCB design, he was also, as the axiom goes, "a real character." Everyone who knew Martin has a favorite story about him. At a trade show, Martin once called a group of us younger folks "party poopers" for leaving the bar at 1:30 a.m.; he stayed until 4:30 and still did his presentation at 9 a.m. What else can we say? He was just a hell of a guy. So in honor of Martin and all of the people who loved him, we're publishing this eulogy by EMSNow Publisher Phil Stoten, who knew Martin for over 50 years. Until next time, Martin! 

This last weekend industry guru and dear friend to many Martin Cotton passed away. He was one of the first people I worked with in the electronics industry when I joined Toptec Design to learn to layout PCBs. He was a bit of a rockstar to many PCB designers, myself included. He was known to be among the best in his field, if not the best, and went on to be one of the most influential and innovative people in the industry over a long and distinguished career. He will be hugely missed by his family and by his numerous friends in and out of the electronics industry.

Cotton3.jpgOver five decades Martin performed his magic at companies including Nortel Networks, Viasystems, Sanmina and Ventec International Group, racking up numerous patents along the way and sharing his intellect and his energy and passion for the industry with trade associations like the ICT (​​Institute of Circuit Technology) and EIPC (European Institute of Printed Circuits), for whom he spoke on numerous occasions. Less than six months ago, Steve Driver of the ICT presented him with an Honorary Fellowship. Steve Driver said at the time, “Martin has been a huge contributor to the Institute of Circuit Technology for many years. He is a recognised industry expert and is very worthy of this accolade.”

MartinCotton_point.jpgThose that knew Martin as I did, will remember him primarily as the exuberant fun-loving friend that always had your back, and was always up for a big night out, especially if you were lucky enough to spend an evening with him in Munich, after a long day at electronica or productronica. As someone I consider a lifelong friend, that’s how I remember him, but Martin was so much more than just a wonderful friend. I don’t think many would disagree if I said he was a genius and an innovator in his field. When we talked about technology I was always trying to keep up and it seems the entire industry was too. Martin proved it was possible to be too far ahead of the field, and perhaps a little too smart for the rest of the room!

I spent more than forty years of my career sharing thoughts, ideas and more than a few beers with Martin. He was a mentor, a dear friend and someone I could always count on. I loved working with him and just being in his orbit, where he was the star of the show. I interviewed him on numerous occasions on camera (take a look at those interviews if you find time), and I spent many many great evenings with him just talking and laughing. He always made me think and he always made me smile.


This has also been posted to LinkedIn to encourage his numerous friends and colleagues to comment, then perhaps we can round out a tribute to this guru, this genius and this diamond geezer!

Martin, we love you and we miss you!

Thank you to Alun Morgan for permission to publish his photos in this article and the slideshow below.


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