About Bob

Bob Underwood comes from a long line of engineers. Both of his grandfathers were engineers. Grandfather Paul Underwood was a civil engineering professor at Cornell University. Grandfather George Jessup, the inspiration for Bob’s book, Dam It! Electrifying America and Taming Her Waterways, was a legendary dam builder. Bob’s father, Robert H. Underwood, was a Cornell mechanical engineer who worked in aerospace system ground testing. Bob in turn holds three engineering degrees from Stanford University—a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS and PhD in Aeronautical and Astronautical Sciences. His PhD dissertation was in computational fluid mechanics. He also earned his MBA from Santa Clara University.
Bob has lived around dam people his entire life. He was born in Paducah, Kentucky, as his grandfather was completing the construction of nearby Kentucky Dam. While he was a child, his parents took him to see other dams whose construction his grandfather had supervised. He lived with his dam-builder grandfather while he was in high school. Family dam-building stories captured his imagination.

Bob’s thirty-plus year career in venture capital and private equity has been focused on developing technology-based businesses. He began his business career in Silicon Valley, rubbing elbows with the inventors and early developers of semiconductors, the laser, the internet, the cell phone, and personal computers and interacting with many famous engineers and entrepreneurs.

He always has been intrigued with how technological developments impact the way we live.

Bob has extensive experience with climate change and renewable energy matters. Earlier in his career, he served in the federal government as Special Assistant for Engineering Sciences in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, where he was considered a technology expert for energy and environmental issues and co-led a major pioneering international program assessing the climatic impact of stratospheric flight. He interacted extensively with climate modelers worldwide. More recently, he was the only outside director of BP plc’s solar energy subsidiary. As a long-time member of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on Industrial Innovation, he has been involved with numerous energy and environmental projects.

Bob and his wife live in the Chicago area and summer on eastern Long Island in the same house where his Jessup grandfather grew up.