Scantron Inventor Michael Sokolski Dies at 85
By Todd Rigney
Scantron was the only way to take standardized tests when I was a kid.
Armed with a number two pencil and a head full of potential, students
would hunker down over these sheets and attempt to “fill in the bubble
completely”, as per our teacher’s instructions. If you’re living with
OCD, making sure that these little circles are completely and evenly
darkened is akin to absolute madness. Trust me.
Sadly, the inventor of this testing format, Michael Sokolski, died on
June 13 from congestive heart failure. He was 85 years-old.
Sokolski was born in Poland on September 25th, 1926. He lost his
mother during a German attack on his homeland during World War II, an
event which prompted him to serve in the Polish Forces under the
British Eighth Army Command. Between the years 1945 and 1947, Sokolski
served in Italy, fighting in the battle of Monte Cassino as a tank
driver. During this exchange, Sokolski was wounded, earning him the
Italy Star and War Medal for his service.
Following his graduation from the University of Minnesota with a
Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, the decorated war hero soon found
work at IBM Rochester. In 1966, Sokolski founded Datronics, which he
eventually sold to the 3M Corporation. Although he’d already made
considerable progress in his career, the world wouldn’t know the man’s
name until he formed Scan-Tron, which completely reinvented the way
everyone took tests.
If all of this wasn’t enough to keep him busy, this tireless
individual was a Technical Reserve for the Santa Ana Police Department
in 1979, as well as a member of Advisory Board for the Orange County
Sheriff Department. Following his retirement, Sokolski developed a
passion for fishing, catching several 50-pound salmon during his many
trips to the sea with his wife and family.