After emergency heart surgery on 18 February 2002, he was transferred to the intensive care unit of Geneva's Cantonal Hospital where he died on 21 March.
An American citizen, Dr. Eicher was appointed ISO Secretary-General in May 1986, having joined the organization as Assistant Secretary-General six years previously. His 38-year career spanned education, science, technology, administration and management.
As Secretary-General, based at the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva, Dr. Eicher was Chief Executive Officer (CEO), responsible for the orderly conduct of technical, organizational and financial matters.
During his 16-year tenure, ISO evolved from an institution with a predominantly technological focus to a market-oriented organization whose standards are increasingly recognized as bringing, in addition to solutions to technical problems, wider social and economic benefits. This evolution has been accompanied by the recognition of ISO's leading role in international standardization and the contributions its standards make to facilitating world trade and economic development, and to raising levels of quality, care of the environment, consumer protection, health and safety.
Among Dr. Eicher's contributions to this evolution, he will be remembered in particular within ISO for his leading role in the thorough re-structuring that the organization underwent during the 1990's and which saw the introduction of a business management model at the levels of both corporate governance and standards development.
This organizational re-engineering was accompanied by a technical one, consisting of the passage from paper-based communication to one taking full advantage of information and communication technology infrastructures and applications to link ISO's national member institutes in more than 140 countries and to improve the efficiency of the standards-development work of its 186 technical committees.
Externally, Dr. Eicher's period of service will have been marked by the launching of ISO's two families of management systems standards, ISO 9000 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environment) which have had a tremendous impact on enterprises and organizations of all types worldwide, as well as making ISO known to a far wider business audience than ever before. Dr. Eicher was personally responsible for having initiated the groundwork which allowed development of the first ISO 14000 standards in only three years.
In addition, Dr. Eicher was a tireless communicator on behalf of ISO and international standardization, undertaking a heavy schedule of international travel and speaking engagements. In a 1998 speech, he remarked: "Go to the back of the class if you thought ISO was all about technical requirements, procedures and publications. In fact, ISO is all about communication between people!"
Dr. Eicher was referring to the work of the thousands of men and women from all regions of the world who collaborate to develop ISO standards (more than 13 400 published). He came back to this theme in one of his last public messages, his "Season's Greetings" to mark the passage from 2001 to 2002: "As I look at the number and range of International Standards developed each year within ISO, I invariably think of the incredible quantity of hard work that has gone into developing them, of the days - and often nights - of discussions and debate, of technical expertise and diplomatic wrangling, of hard thought and sheer effort involved in them.
"I can visualize the experts gathered in all corners of the earth, hammering out the standards that are making people's lives safer, more comfortable and easier - even without their realizing it. I see in my mind's eye the Chairs and Secretaries of technical committees, the convenors and experts on the working groups, the delegates putting in long hours, dedicating themselves to standardization to ensure a world where the wheels of industry turn more efficiently and the consumer benefits from higher quality, easier-to-use products, produced in better, more environmentally friendly conditions. I cannot help but be struck by this single-minded commitment to bring out the best standards possible, sometimes under great stress and in difficult conditions."
Dr. Eicher is survived by his wife Nancy and three children - Scott, Leah and Paige - to whom the President and members of ISO and the staff of ISO Central Secretariat extend their sincere condolences and profound sympathy. We share in their grief and wish them strength and courage.
Career details: Dr. Lawrence D. Eicher was born on 3 November 1938 in Colorado, USA, he received a doctorate in physical chemistry at Texas A&M University in 1972 and went on to work for the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. He was the author of numerous scientific papers and a textbook on chemical analysis.
In 1974, Dr. Eicher joined the USA's National Bureau of Standards (NBS - now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST ) and from then on remained in standardization, soon becoming involved at the international level. As the head of the NBS Office of Standards Information, Analysis and Development from 1975 to 1979, his international work included chairmanship of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Advisory Group on the ISO International Standards Information Network (ISONET) and membership of the ISONET Management Board.
Appointed Director of the NBS Office of Engineering Standards in 1979, he represented NBS on the Board of Directors of ANSI and was a member of the ANSI International Standards Council. He was, therefore, already well known in international standardization when he joined ISO in 1980.
A more detailed record of Dr. Eicher's professional experience and achievements is available on request.