Nevada County People: Joseph Spranza |

Nevada County People: Joseph Spranza

Joseph Spranza was a physicist and a lifelong inventor who developed everything from complex physics apparatus during his student years in Stanford University to high-tech surgical instruments at his Grass Valley business later in life.

A memorial service will be held for him at 2 p.m. Saturday at his home on Rough and Ready Highway, his wife, Susan Spranza, said.

Joseph Spranza died at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, in Auburn, on July 9, 2007, after a brief illness. He was 69.

“My husband was a tremendous teacher,” Susan Spranza said. “He was a perfectionist. He wanted things to be right and really wanted to make a difference in the lives of people around him.”

Spranza did his earliest scientific works while a physics student at Stanford University. He was part of a team that developed a two-mile long optical alignment system. The project was featured in Time magazine in July 1968.

He also worked on laser instruments, including projects with the U.S. Defense Department, and he was a consultant with several corporations manufacturing scientific instruments.

The Spranzas moved to Grass Valley in 1988, after Joseph Spranza fell in love with the area and the house he subsequently bought, Susan Spranza said.

He founded Special Devices Inc. in Grass Valley, where he developed medical instruments with doctors from across the country.

Over the years, he secured at least 16 patents, Susan Spranza said.

“Joe was a bibliophile,” Susan Spranza said. “He has over 10,000 books in his home library, each of which he read.”

He also loved cooking, gardening, music, travel, bicycling and animals, she added.

“Joe always felt that the days were too short and the to-do lists were too long,” Susan Spranza said.

Spranza is survived by his wife and two sons, Charles Spranza and Stephen Spranza, all of Grass Valley.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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