Gary S. Guthart, Chief Executive Officer of the world’s most successful medical robotics company, is proof that working for NASA as a teenager will often lead to good things.
Guthart was in high school when his math teacher signed him up for an internship that turned out to be located on a nearby NASA base and U.S. Naval base. So, after riding his bike through armed gates that required a special security clearance, the precocious young man began developing software for evaluating the performance of combat pilots when under stress. This proved to be a seminal experience. Not only did his internship afford Guthart the opportunity to watch experimental aircraft fly in and out of the base, it also introduced him to the wonders of science and technology. He was hooked.
“I thought, ‘I am in. That is it. I don’t care what else I am doing, but if I get paid to do this, this is the best job in the world,'" he said in a recent interview with MassDevice.com.
After high school, Guthart spent nearly a decade in academia. A top student, he received a bachelor’s in engineering physics from Berkeley before heading to the California Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctorate in fluid mechanics. From there, he landed at an applied research lab at Stanford Research Institute, where his passion for medical robotics began to flourish. While at SRI, he was part of the core team that developed the foundational technology for computer enhanced surgery. Guthart also developed technologies for vibration and acoustic control of large-scale systems.
In April 1996, Guthart joined Intuitive Surgical as part of the company’s first engineering team. While his first title was simply “control systems analyst,” it didn't take long before his fingerprints were all over the company. In 1999, after three years, he was promoted to vice president of engineering. By 2002, he had made senior vice president of product operations — which led to him assuming the chief operating officer role in 2006 and president the following year. These appointments culminated in January 2010 with Guthart being named CEO and a member of the board of directors for the leading surgical robotics provider.
Since Guthart took the helm over a decade ago, Intuitive has continued to increase its market dominance. Under his leadership, the company has grown to more than 8,000 employees and its stock has increased several times over.
Away from Intuitive, Guthart also served as a member of the board of directors of Affymetrix from May 2009 until its acquisition by Thermo Fisher Scientific in March 2016.