An event honoring and dedicated to the memory of Dr. Henry Edward “Ed” Roberts (1941 – 2010), “Father of the Personal Computer” and graduate of the Mercer University School of Medicine MD Class of 1986), and honoring the MUSM Class of 1986 (first graduating class) was held at the MUSM Macon Campus on November 5, 2016. Dr. Jean Sumner, dean of MUSM and a graduate of the first MD class at MUSM (Class of 1986), President William Underwood, and Dr. Thomas Hope (neurologist and MUSM Charter Class Faculty Member) unveiled a bronze bust of Dr. Ed Roberts.
Ed Roberts was born on September 13, 1941 in Miami, Florida to Henry Melvin Roberts and Edna Wilcher Roberts. Dr. Roberts was an American engineer, entrepreneur and medical doctor who invented the first commercially successful personal computer in 1975. Dr. Roberts entered the University of Miami with the intention of becoming a doctor but changed majors and joined the Air Force after getting married and starting a family. In 1965 Dr. Roberts was selected by the Air Force to return to college, complete his degree and become a commissioned officer. In 1968 he earned an electrical engineering degree from Oklahoma State University and returned to service with the Air Force. Dr. Roberts started an electronics company with co-workers called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Initially the company worked on electronics for model rockets. Dr. Roberts bought out his partners and began focusing on digital calculators and eventually developed and produced the first low cost computer kit called the Altair 8800. It was the Altair 8800 that landed him on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975. This magazine cover attracted the attention of Bill Gates, then a student at Harvard, and Paul Allen who would write a software program to run on Dr. Robert's computer. MITS continued to grow and in 1977 Dr. Roberts sold the company and returned to rural Georgia to become a farmer but never lost the drive to become a physician.
Because of his age, fulfilling his dream of becoming a physician seemed dead but Mercer University started a new medical school in 1982 that proved to be the perfect fit. Mercer was entering into a public-private partnership with the state of Georgia to help fill a critical shortage of physicians in Georgia and nationwide. This medical school would only accept Georgia residents and was founded on the principle of training physicians for the citizens of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Dr. Roberts was a member of the first class, graduated in 1986 and completed his internal medicine residency at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. Dr. Roberts returned to rural Georgia to fulfill his dream of becoming a rural physician in 1988 establishing his practice in Cochran, Georgia where he remained until his death. Dr. Roberts was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society in 2009 based on his devotion to rural medicine and accomplishment of developing of the first personal computer. Ed Roberts married Joan Clark in 1962 and they had five sons, Melvin, Clark, John David, Edward, Martin and a daughter Dawn. Roberts died April 1, 2010 after a months-long bout with pneumonia, at the age of 68. During his last hospitalization in Macon, Georgia, hospital staffers were stunned to see an unannounced Bill Gates, who had come to pay last respects to his first employer.