Archive for November, 2006

Joseph Warren Horton

Sixty-five years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by J. Warren Horton on “the electrical transmission of pictures and images.” At the time he was Chief Engineer of the General Radio Company of Cambridge, MA, but the paper was based on his earlier research at the Bel Telephone Laboratories. He had been an active participant in the design and testing of a mechanical-scan television system which had been demonstrated publicly in April 1927. Horton and his Bel Labs coleagues had demonstrated television reception over both wire and radio links. They had shown two receivers with one producing a smal image for possible use as a video adjunct to a telephone and the other a large image suitable for use with a public address system. They had given technical details of the system in papers presented at the annual convention of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) in June 1927. In his September 1929 paper, Horton pointed out that television service would require a much greater bandwidth than was needed for telephony. He explained that adding video reception to a home telephone would necessitate a bandwidth increase of the order of 200 times. He speculated that the determination of performance standards for television would require much more experimentation and that the ultimate quality achieved would be a reflection of the “law of supply and demand.” Horton was born in 1889 in Ipswich, MA, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, in 1914 with a B.S. degree in electrochemistry. He remained at MIT as a graduate student and instructor until 1916 when he joined the technical staff of the Western Electric Company in New York City. During World War I, he took a temporary leave from Western Electric to join the technical staff at an underwater sound laboratory at Nahant, MA. He helped develop hydrophone apparatus for submarine detection and was sent to Great Britain by the U.S. Navy to instal the new system in the Irish Sea. After the War, he returned to Western Electric where he worked on multiplex carrier systems, loudspeakers, and quartz crystal oscilators as wel as mechanical-scan television. He became a member of the research staff of the Bel Telephone Laboratories when it was formed in 1925. In 1928, Horton left Bel to join the General Radio Company where he worked until 1933. He colaborated with Robert F. Field on the development of the General Radio 650-A impedance bridge which became one of the company’s most successful products. In 1933, Horton returned to MIT where he engaged in research on instrumentation for use in medicine and taught courses in bioengineering. He received the D.Sc. degree from MIT in 1935 and did consulting work with local hospitals. During World War II, he was affiliated with an underwater sound laboratory operated for the Government by Columbia University and worked on sonar and underwater communication systems. In 1945 he returned to MIT where he taught communications engineering until 1949. Horton was the Chief Research Consultant for the Navy’s Underwater Sound Laboratory in New London, CT, from 1949 to 1959, when he became the Technical Director of the Laboratory , a position he held until his retirement in 1963. His course notes for a course on sonar for U.S. Navy officers served as a basis for his book entitled Fundamentals of Sonar published in 1957. He received :he Navy’s Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1958 and was awarded approximately 56 U.S. patents for his Inventions. He was the third recipient of the Pioneers of Underwater Acoustics Award presented by the Acoustical 5ociety of America. He was a Felow of both the AIEE and the IRE. He died in 1967 at the age of 77.

James E. Brittain



School of History, Technology, and Society

Georgia Institute of Technology


Submitted by Dick Reiman, Historian


Copyright 1994 IEEE. Reprinted with permission from the IEEE publication, “Scanning the Past” which covers a reprint of an article appearing in the Proceedings of the IEEE Vol. 82, No.4, September 1994.



November 1st, 2006


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