LOS ANGELES — John "Jack" H. Cover, the inventor of the Taser stun gun used by thousands of police agencies around the world, has died. He was 88.
Cover, who had Alzheimer's disease, died of pneumonia Saturday at his home in an unspecified location, according to a statement from Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that manufactures and markets the stun gun.
A nuclear physicist who was born in New York, Cover spent most of his career working in the aerospace and defense industries. Early in his career, he started inventing devices such as cooked-food testers and voice-activated switches in his spare time.
"Jack was one of the most influential inventors of modern times who affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers, citizens and even criminal suspects," Rick Smith, chief executive and founder of Taser International, said in a statement.
Cover's most famous invention was the Taser, which issues electric shocks that temporarily subdue aggressive suspects. The device has won widespread praise from law enforcement for preventing injuries and deaths and is used by some 13,000 agencies around the world.
The Taser has its critics, who say stun guns have proved fatal in numerous cases. The American Civil Liberties Union is pressing to have it classified as a deadly weapon, but experts disagree on whether the stun gun directly caused the deaths.
Cover's goal was to invent a nonlethal weapon to combat the plane hijackings and riots that were occurring in the 1960s, Smith said.
Cover began developing the "electronic control device" while working as chief scientist for NASA's Apollo moon landing program.
The Taser had limited commercial success until 1993, when Smith and his brother Tom, contacted the inventor with the idea of marketing the stun gun as a nonlethal self-protection device for civilians.
Cover changed the weapon's propulsion system from gun powder to compressed air and the Taser became popular with civilians and a staple of law enforcement.
Smith said Cover came up with the Taser name by making an acronym from the title of his favorite childhood book: "Tom (A.) Swift and his Electric Rifle" by Victor Appleton.
Cover is survived by his wife Ginny of San Clemente, four children, two stepchildren, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was cremated and there are no plans for a memorial service.