Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

I Remember: The brilliant mind of Lloyd Pinkney

Lloyd Pinkney and his wife, Mary Gayle, at their daughter Laurie’s wedding in 2008.

Lloyd Pinkney is a legend in the Canadian space industry. I have many fond memories of his eccentric charm from when I was an operations analyst at Neptec Design Group. Lloyd had a brilliant mind, and his brilliance often led him to be oblivious to social cues, particularly when it came to ending conversations.

One time, a colleague was on his way to a meeting, trying to end a conversation with Lloyd by slowly backing away and saying "OK, Lloyd, let's talk about that later." Lloyd kept talking and moving with him to the point that my colleague had backed himself into a closet. Lloyd kept talking.

On another occasion, Lloyd talked astronaut Steve MacLean out the door to the parking lot. Steve was trying to drive away, but there was Lloyd, walking down the parking lot beside his car, talking to him through the open driver's-side window.

Story continues below advertisement

On one occasion of my own, I absolutely had to get some work done in preparation for a presentation, and Lloyd stopped by for a technical conversation. I tried to tell Lloyd I'd stop by that afternoon for a long discussion on the topic, but to no avail. Shortly thereafter, my office phone rang. Lloyd didn't even acknowledge it. I looked at the call display and told Lloyd I really had to take the call and picked up the receiver, cupped the phone, and said "I'll stop by this afternoon." One of my cubicle colleagues 10 feet away was calling to save me, fully understanding the circumstances, and allowing me to get back to work. Not 10 minutes later, the phone rang again. This time it was Lloyd calling with something he had forgotten to mention.

This all sounds like we tried to avoid Lloyd. On the contrary, I greatly enjoyed my technical discussions with him, and his brilliance in simplifying and visualizing problems and solutions. It was just that practical considerations such as time management and other obligations sometimes had to take precedence, whereas Lloyd's passion for the technical outweighed all other concerns.

One of my favourite meetings with Lloyd included Steve and another SVS developer on a problem I had found with the SVS two-camera solution in which the measurements were biased in favour of one of the cameras. After debating the merits of different solutions and winding down the meeting, Lloyd summarized his argument that we must "respect the similitude." We all nodded, not entirely sure what to make of that. I looked it up after the meeting. Indeed, he had accurately summarized the mathematical problem in one word in terms of matching geometric, kinematic and dynamic similarities. When I think of history's eccentric, great thinkers, I will always respect Lloyd's similitude.

Chad English, PhD, P.Eng, former director of R&D at Neptec Design Group, currently industrial technology adviser at NRC-IRAP

Lloyd and I shared an office for several months at NRC during building renovations. His son, Chris, had received a comment from his high school teacher related to the kilogram as a measure of mass or as a measure of weight. The remark piqued Lloyd's interest and after some initial thought, he concluded that he did not agree with the comment, even though it aligned with the major texts of the day. What followed was that Lloyd researched the issue in depth, confirmed his position to himself and then entered into a detailed and lengthy interaction with System International officials in France related to then currently held conventions in the metric system. Lloyd, in his usual calm but enthusiastic way, made the case for a revised interpretation of the then current convention. And it was all stemming from a remark he felt was incorrect on a high school test.

David Simpson, Ottawa

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to