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Oldest Patent Lawyer Dies at 107

In a post here last October, I asked readers for help in identifying the nation's oldest lawyer. My query was prompted by the death of Reuben Landau, who at 103 was said to have been the oldest practicing lawyer in Massachusetts. One astute reader commented then that the holder of the title may have been New Hampshire's Charles Yardley Chittick, whose age had earned him an entry in Wikipedia as the oldest living patent attorney in the United States. The reader's comment added, "Not sure if he is still alive but I cannot find an article on his death and this wiki was updated in July 2007."

Well, now we know. Mr. Chittick died Friday at the age of 107, several days after suffering injuries in a fall, The Boston Globe reports. Born in 1900, he turned down a job offer from Thomas Edison and attended George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., to become a patent lawyer. He became registered as a patent attorney in 1934 and went to work at the U.S. Patent Office earning $1,900 a year. He later moved to Boston and opened his own office, where he practiced full time until he was 85. He retired to New Hampshire in 1975.

In a 2005 interview on the occasion of his receiving an honorary degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., Chittick was asked why he had not patented the secret to longevity. The reason, he replied, was that he had not figured it out.

He does, however, have a few theories. 'I was a runner from my very beginning,' Chittick said, recalling the 'Italian boys' who hung out on a corner he had to pass on his way to grade school in Newark, N.J. 'I was always afraid of those boys, so I ran to school,' he said. 'When I got to high school, I kept on running.'

An outstanding athlete in his younger days, Chittick still swings a golf club with ease and participates in ... exercise classes. He's never smoked, and he's always drunk in moderation. 'I have a screwdriver every night,' he said. 'It's a pleasant drink, which I enjoy - but I never get drunk.'

He retained his registration as a patent attorney but once told a reporter he deserves no special attention. "I'm an entirely undistinguished person in industry and intellectually," he said. "All I've managed to do is stay alive longer than anybody."

[View photos and listen to a 2000 interview with Chittick, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, via the Pierce Law IP Mall.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 22, 2008 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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