The life and works of Robert G. Metzner

I want to tell you about my father, Robert Gerson Metzner, who died peacefully at home in Beverly Hills, California on December 21, 2014. He was a very special man.

Dad was born on February 11,1917 in Detroit, Michigan. His father Abraham Metzner was a pediatrician. His mother Vera Pollasky Metzner was a nutritional specialist. He had an older sister Maxine. The family moved to Los Angeles when Dad was 4. He was a smart boy, who showed an early aptitude for science and technology. He built his first crystal radio set at age 9, got his ham radio license and later acquired his First Class Radio Telephone license at age 16.

Dad earned a degree in electrical engineering at Caltech, class of 1938. He worked to pay for his education. Robert Metzner at Caltech

When he graduated, he started his first company. There would be more. His career spanned the growth of the audio industry, and he played a significant role in it. He patented numerous inventions in many audio formats, disk and tape. His first big company Pacific Sound made transcription players for the army in World War Two. Then he founded Califone (“CALIFornia PHONograph”) Corporation, which still serves the audiovisual needs of educators and many other professionals, just as it did when he placed some of the first record players, tape recorders and learning laboratories in American schools. Califone unit Califone learning labHe started Roberts Recorders with Robert Craig, and formed one of the earliest successful partnerships between an American and Japanese (Akai) electronics company. (See detailed history and videos at the Museum of Magnetic Sound Recording website.) Roberts333XAd3 MetznerTapeMechPatent3 His Metzner Starlight Turntable is still praised and collected by audiophiles.Metzner starlite turntable

He retired from business at age 42, but was far from finished with inventing and creating. He had studied sculpting in his spare time and was now able to pursue a new career as a sculptor.

After many years of unstinting creativity his works are on display at UCLA, Caltech and in private collections. 

He also invented the first modern gas/electric hybrid automobile with Gerald Fields. Hybrid patentTheir prototype is now in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Hybrid with  inventors Fields and Metzner

Dad’s favorite pastime for most of his adult life was sailing. Dad in Commodore Cap He owned many boats and won innumerable prizes and trophies racing on the Pacific Ocean. Sailboat As with all of the other activities mentioned above, he attributed much of his success on land and sea to his engineering training at Caltech.

Unlike Thomas Edison, on whose 70th birthday he was born, Dad was an inventor and businessman whose family was an important part of his life. He and my mother Esther were happily married for 74 years. Dad and Mom Mom worked as his secretary in the early days and never stopped being a valued sounding board for him. He always credited her for keeping his work life balanced with family and feelings. Mom died on July 21, 2016 — exactly 19 months after Dad. My sister Carolee and I have many fond memories of time spent with them, later including their four grandchildren, Jeff, Dave, Jamie and Katie, their nine great-grandchildren, Jacob, Jake, Will, Noah, Kiley, Nick, Mirabelle, Zack and Lexy,  and the loved ones who joined our family as spouses, co-parents and partners, Linda, Eddie, Leila, Elise, Charles, Ariane and Judy.


There is much more to tell, but I’ll stop here. I think Dad’s greatest accomplishment was that he did all that I’ve just described and yet never stopped being a kind, humble, loving human being with a great sense of humor. I’m sure you can understand why we all loved him and miss him so much.

Dad at 96