Biographical / Historical
Norman Joseph Woodland (1921-2012) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Woodland also served during World War II in the Army as a technical assistant for the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University (1947) and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University (1956). He joined the Drexel University faculty as a lecturer in mechanical engineering in 1947.
In 1948, Woodland became aware of the need for supermarket inventory control through automated checkout. He conceived of the idea of using printed parallel stripes of varying widths to encode prices of items in 1949. Woodland, together with Bernard Silver (1921-1963), an electrical engineer, and fellow Drexel University faculty lecturer, defined a system to exploit the bar code invention to automatically capture item prices as well as inventory data. Woodland and Silver were issued US patent 2,612,994 for a classifying apparatus and method on October 7, 1952. Woodland and Silver sold their patent for $15,000 to Philco in 1961.
Woodland joined IBM in 1951 as a mechanical designer and later worked as a senior planner in artificial intelligence in general and expert systems. While at IBM, Woodland identified and applied existing and emerging technologies to enhance planned IBM products and systems. He worked in store systems marketing, long-range market planning, product planning, and artificial intelligence development. In 1983, he received an IBM technical sabbatical to work on expert systems and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and to study these systems in use in Japan. A significant portion of Woodland's career focused on the bar code in general and supermarket automated check-out processes. His work laid the foundation for the creation of the universal product code (UPC symbol), for which ), for which he was an integral part of the IBM team's winning design, in his role as the person responsible for IBM's UPC symbol proposal to the grocery industry's symbol selection committee.
In 1992, Woodland won the National Medal of Technology for his invention and contribution to the commercialization of bar code technology, which improved productivity in every industrial sector and gave rise to the bar code industry. Woodland holds six patents.
Woodland married Jacqueline Woodland (née Blumberg) in 1951 and they had two daughters, Betsy Karpenkopf and Susan Woodland.