Armin John Hill was born June 7,1912, in Riverdale, Idaho, to John Ensign and Ivy Blood Hill. The Hills moved to Drummond, Montana in the spring of 1916 where Armin grew up on a cattle ranch. He attended Drummond High School for his first two years, and then finished at Deer Lodge, some 40 miles from home. He graduated in 1927, two days before his 15th birthday following which he stayed on the ranch a year to provide some maturity before entering college. He attend Montana State College in Bozeman, receiving a B.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1932. He also met his wife there, Virginia A. Nelson, whom he married Aug. 25, 1933, in Salt Lake City, Utah. These were depression years, and there was only one job offered his entire graduating class of 150 students - that of teaching in a junior college in Bottineau, North Dakota. Since he graduated at the top of his class, the job was offered to him. He took it and worked there for the next five years, supplementing his income teaching piano lessons and working part-time for the REA. In 1937 he was offered a fellowship to return to Montana State College to obtain a Master's degree. This was accomplished in one year, following which he taught at MSC for most of the next decade. During this time, one of his students was OSSC member Gene Turner, a Past President of SPIE. In 1947 he moved to Pasadena where he attended CalTech, receiving his M.S. in physics in 1949, and his Ph.D. in spectroscopy in 1950.
Although he was technically on leave from Montana State College, he could not afford to return, so accepted a job with the Motion Picture Research Council, a group of Ph.D.s hired by the motion picture studios, to solve all of the intractable problems. This introduced him to Hollywood, where he was able to develop light sources, lenses and screens necessary for the movie industry. He helped pioneer 3-D photography, VistaVision and Cinemascope technology, even solving a difficult heating problem on the sets, due to the intensity of lights being used. He also helped develop Xenon projection lights and special coatings for movie screens that permitted movies to be shown outdoors. He was a prolific writer who published many articles in professional journals. For his writings about 3-D movie technology he received the National Best Paper Award from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in 1953.
In 1957 he was offered the Position of Dean in the College of Science and Engineering at Brigham Young University. For the next 15 years he served in this position, building a modern engineering building and outstanding engineering programs to match. With a change in the college structure in 1972, he became dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, from which he retired in 1977. He had served on the board of the American Society of Engineering Education, was active in promoting relations with industry for that group and served on a Utah industry relocation commission.
He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow in Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. He served as the first Vice-President of the Optical Society of Southern California, when it was formed in 1951 as a Local Section of the Optical Society of America. Armin Hill then was President of OSSC in it's second year. A later Board of Directors elected him to the honorary position of OSSC Fellow.
Armin and Virginia were the parents of six children, all of whom are now living. The eldest, Ivy Josephine Gilchrist, a retired school teacher, resides with her husband Bruce Gilchrist, a retired school teacher, in Salt Lake City. Walter Ensign Hill is a professor of biochemistry at The University of Montana, and resides with wife Annette Smith Hill, a homemaker, and their family in Missoula, Montana. Doris Marie Giles is a homemaker and resides with her husband Boyd Giles, a profession scouter, in Denver, Colorado. David Nelson Hill, an insurance agent, resides with his wife Julie Johnson Hill, a school teacher, in Santa Clara, Utah. Carolyn Virginia Jones, a personnel agent, lives with her husband LeGrand Jones, a retired safety engineer, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Armin Kent Hill, a state unemployment agent, lives with his wife Sandy Beckner Hill, a massage therapist, and their family, in Salem, Oregon. Armin's first wife, Virginia, died Jan. 8, 1975. He then married Erma Warren on Sept. 10. 1975, in Pasadena, California. Armin died May 15, 1988 at the age of 75. Erma died almost five years later on January 8, 1993.