Posts filed under 'History of Electrical Engineering'

MARCH 2011 HISTORY

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1997 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. 85, No. 2, February 1997.

Rudolf Kompfner and the Traveling-Wave TYibe    

     Fifty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF  THE RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by Rudolf Kompfner (see Fig. 1) img014.jpgon the traveling-wave tube as a microwave amplifier. At the time he was affiliated with the Clarendon Laboratory of Oxford University in England. He received the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1973 as recognition of having made “a major contribution to worldwide communication through the conception of the traveling-wave tube embodying a new principle of amplification.” He also made significant contributions to the development of communication using earth satellites.
     Kompfner was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909. He graduated with a degree in architecture from the Technische Hochschule in Vienna in 1933. In 1934, he moved to England, where he worked as an architect and developed a vocational interest in radio and electronic tubes. He took advantage of the facilities available at the Patent Office Library and began to write for radio journals in his spare time. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was interned as an alien on the Isle of Man but was released in 1941 to join the staff of an advanced electronics laboratory at the University of Birmingham. The laboratory was directed by Mark L. Oliphant and was the site of the demonstration of the resonant cavity magnetron as a high-power microwave generator by Henry A. H. Boot and John T. Randall early in 1940.
     Assigned to work on development of a klystron amplifier, Kompfner determined that the coupling between the radio frequency field in resonator gaps and img015.jpgthe electron beam was too weak to give suitable results. In the fall of 1942 he came up with the idea of creating an interaction between a traveling electromagnetic wave and an electron beam. In a notebook entry dated November 12, 1942, he mentioned “a completely untuned amplifier” and his sketch showed a helix between the input signal and output (see Fig. 2). For a time he called it a “helical coaxial-line amplifier.” Several colleagues left the laboratory to take up research related to atomic bombs, but Kompfner continued to work on the traveling wave concept as “spare-time amusement” from his principal assignment of klystrons. He obtained amplifi¬cation (see Fig. 3) for the first time with an experimental traveling-wave tube (Fig. 4) on November 1, 1943. In 1944, he was transferred to the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford where he and Joseph Hatton, a research assistant, continued theoretical and experimental research on the new device. They shared their findings with John R. Pierce of the Bell Telephone Laboratories who visited Oxford in 1944 and who soon produced a more elegant theory of traveling-wave tubes.
     Information about the research on traveling-wave tubes remained secret until June 1946 when Joseph Hatton pre¬sented a paper about it at an electron tube conference at Yale University. More complete information was provided by Kompfner’s paper in the February 1947 issue of the PROCEEDINGS and two papers by Pierce (one with L. M. Field as coauthor) in the same issue. Pierce’s book Traveling-Wave Tubes was published in 1950. Kompfner received a doctorate in img016.jpgphysics from Oxford in 1951 and joined Pierce’s group at the Bell Laboratories the same year. Continuing work he had started in England, Kompfner developed a backward-wave oscillator and amplifier which could be tuned electronically. He disclosed this discovery at a tube conference in Ottawa, Canada, in June 1952.
     Kompfner began theoretical work on earth satellite com-munication by 1958 and published a joint paper with Pierce in the March 1959 PROCEEDINGS OF THE IRE, entitled ‘Transoceanic Communication by Means of Satellites.” They considered both passive and active satellites and concluded that they had “a great deal of confidence in the overall feasibility of satellite communications.” Their work contributed to such early projects as the passive satellite Echo launched in 1960 and the active repeater satellite Telstar in 1962.
    img017.jpg Kompfner retired from Bell Laboratories and subse¬quently taught at Stanford University and at Oxford. He was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. His book The Invention of the Traveling-Wave Tube was published by San Francisco Press in 1964. His colleague John Pierce wrote that the book “can tell you something of the strange and wonderful ways in which important inventions and discoveries are actually made.”
     Kompfner died in December 1977 at age 68.
REFERENCES
[1]  IEEE Center for the History of Electrical Engineering. [2]  R. Kompfner, The Invention of the Traveling Wave Tube.    San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 1964.
James E. Brittain

March 4th, 2011

FEBRUARY 2011 HISTORY

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1997 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. 85, No. 1, January 1997.

Harold A. Wheeler: A Pioneer in Radio and Television
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     Fifty-five years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper on interference between frequency-modulated signals by Harold A. Wheeler (see Fig. 1). Remembered as the inventor  of a much used automatic volume control (AVC) circuit and numerous other technical contributions to communi¬cations engineering, he was a frequent contributor to the PROCEEDINGS during a professional career that spanned much of the 20th century. He served many years as a member of the IRE Board of Editors and was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1964.
      Wheeler was born in 1905 in Minnesota where his father was an agricultural teacher. The family soon moved to South Dakota where his father taught for four years at South Dakota State College in Brookings. From 1907 to 1916, the Wheeler family lived in Mitchell, SD, where his father worked as manager of a seed company. Wheeler remembered Mitchell as having been “a small town with Hazeltine, inventor of the neutrodyne radio receiver and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Wheeler worked for Hazeltine during the summer of 1923 and came to regard Hazeltine as his principal mentor. Wheeler continued his formal education at Johns Hopkins University from 1925 to 1928 while continuing to work part time for the Hazeltine Company, founded in 1924 to manage patents and assist licensees. While at Johns Hopkins, Wheeler assisted Gregory Breit and Merle Tuve in the design and construction of apparatus which they used to position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By that time, Wheeler had developed an interest in radio, and he used a homemade receiver to listen to Navy radio signals during World War I. His enthusiasm for radio served as a stimulus to his father who initiated a radio news service for farmers in 1920 (Fig. 2).

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      Wheeler received the B.S. degree in physics at George Washington University in 1925. While still an undergrad¬uate, he worked two summers at the Radio Laboratory of the National Bureau of Standards where he learned of the latest developments in radio engineering. In the summer of “1922, he met Alan Hazeltine, inventor of the neutrodyne radio receiver and a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Wheeler worked for Hazeltine during the summer of 1923 and came to regard Hazeltine as his principal mentor. Wheeler continued his formal education at Johns Hopkins University from 1925 to 1928 while continuing to work part time for the Hazeltine Company, founded in 1924 to manage patents and assist licensees. While at Johns Hopkins, Wheeler assisted Gregory Breit and Merle Tuve in the design and construction of apparatus which they used to determine the height of the ionosphere by means of reflected radio-frequency pulses.

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      In 1925, Wheeler invented an AVC circuit (see original notebook schematics in Fig. 3) for radio receivers which utilized a vacuum-tube diode in a circuit designed to vary the gain of the receiver in response to changes in signal level (Fig. 4 shows a receiver equipped with AVC). He explained the circuit in his first IRE paper published in January 1928. The innovation was introduced commercially in receivers manufactured by the Philco Company in 1929. Wheeler’s patent on the circuit became a major asset of the Hazeltine Company during the 1930’s. He became a full time employee of Hazeltine in 1928 and contributed to various improvements in receivers and test instruments, many of which were protected by patents. During the 1930’s, he studied the design of wide-band amplifiers suitable for use in television receivers and published a Proceedings paper on this topic in July 1939. In the paper he introduced the “bandwidth index” as a way to calculate the maximum bandwidth capability of a given type of vacuum tube. He received the Morris N. Liebmann Award of the IRE in 1940 as recognition of the importance of this work.
       During World War II, Wheeler directed a project to develop a device to locate buried antitank mines and the resulting production model was designated as the SCR-625. He also worked on the design of antennas suitable for identification friend or foe (IFF) systems. In 1947, he left Hazeltine and founded Wheeler Laboratories which grew to employ approximately 100 engineers by 1959. Wheeler Laboratories became a subcontractor for the Nike missile project and the lab also worked on a Navy project involving very low frequency communication with submarines. Dur¬ing this period, Wheeler developed an interest in phased array antennas and strip transmission lines and published several technical papers on these topics.

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     In 1959 the Hazeltine Company acquired Wheeler Lab¬oratories although it retained considerable autonomy under the parent company and Wheeler continued as president of the Laboratories until 1968. He served as chairman of the Hazeltine Board of Directors from 1965 to 1977 and continued as chief scientist of the company working full time until 1983 and three days a week until 1987. He received approximately 180 U.S. patents during his career and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He received the Armstrong Medal of the Radio Club of America in 1964 and the Microwave Career Award of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society in 1975. He developed a strong interest in the history of com¬munication engineering and served on the IEEE History Committee during the 1970’s. Among his publications was the book The Early Days of Wheeler and Hazeltine Corporation-Profiles in Radio and Electronics published by the Hazeltine Company in 1982. He died in April 1996 at age 91.
James E. Brittain

February 7th, 2011

November 2010 History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 12, December 1996.

Reginald A. Fessenden and the Origins of Radio

Ninety years ago this month, an experimental radio transmitter (Fig. 1) located in Brant Rock, MA, and operated by Reginald A. Fessenden, broadcast a brief program of voice and music on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Eve. The transmitting station employed a radio-frequency alternator constructed for Fessenden by the General Electric Company and was picked up by shipboard operators as far away as the West Indies. As a well-known pioneer in radio communications, Fessenden became a strong advocate of continuous-wave radio as an alternative to spark systems and he opposed excessive government regulation of the emerging industry. A prolific inventor, he introduced a number of important technical innovations and was awarded the Medal of Honor of the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1921.
The son of an Episcopal minister, Fessenden was bornpicture1_nov-2010.jpg
in 1866 in East Bolton, Quebec, Canada. He graduated from Trinity College School and continued his education at Bishop’s College while teaching mathematics at Bishop’s College School. He then taught for two years at Whitney Institute in Bermuda before moving to New York City in 1886 where he worked as a tester for the Edison Machine Works on electric power distribution systems. In 1887, he joined the research staff at Edison’s new laboratory facility in West Orange, NJ, and worked there for about three years. He also worked for the United States Electric Company and for the Stanley Electric Company before accepting an invitation to teach electrical engineering at Purdue University in 1892. The following year, he joined the engineering faculty at the Western University of Pittsburgh where he taught and did research for the next seven years.
Fessenden and some of his more advanced students undertook research relating to wireless communication and he presented a paper on “the possibilities of wireless telegraphy” at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in November 1899. He also proposed an “electrostatic doublet” theory of atoms in solids and used it in an attempt to link data on atomic volume and spacing to properties of materials such as cohesion and elasticity. In 1900 he published a paper in the Physical Review concerning fundamental theories of matter, electricity, magnetism, and the ether.

                                                                             picture2_nov-2010.jpgFessenden gave up his academic position in 1900 to accept an offer from the United States Weather Bureau to develop a wireless network for communication with weather stations. It was during this period that he invented the liquid barreter as a wave detector which proved more sensitive and reliable than the coherer detector. The barreter employed a thin platinum wire immersed in a cup of nitric acid as a rectifier of high-frequency signals. Fessenden also conceived the heterodyne radio receiver which employed a local oscillator to mix with incoming signals.
The Weather Bureau project proved unsuccessful but, in 1902, Fessenden persuaded two Pittsburgh financiers to invest in a new firm known as the National Electric Signaling Company (NESCO) to develop wireless communication commercially. The broadcasts from Brant Rock in December 1906 were part of an effort by NESCO to publicize and market the wireless system developed by Fessenden and his assistants. Fig. 2 shows part of the transmitting control apparatus while Fig. 3 is a photograph of the antenna and supporting structure used to transmit the broadcast. The Christmas Eve program as recounted by Fessenden consisted of:
. .. first a short speech by me saying what we were  going to do, then some phonograph music Then came a violin solo by me . . . which I sang one verse of, in addition to playing the violin, though the singing, of course, was not very good. Then came the Bible text, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will, and we finally wound up by wishing them a Merry Christmas and then saying that we proposed to broadcast again on New Year’s Eve.  Fessenden mentioned that he had been unable to persuade any of his colleagues to play music, sing, or talk and “consequently had to do it all myself.”
Following disputes over marketing strategy with his financial backers, Fessenden terminated his connection with NESCO in 1911 and it soon went into receivership. He did some consulting work for the Submarine Signal Company during World War I and invented a sonic depth finder. He became involved in protracted patent litigation with the Radio Corporation of America during the 1920’s which culminated in an out-of-court settlement which enabled him to retire to Bermuda. Late in life, he became interested in ancient accounts of the lost continent of Atlantis and authored a treatise entitled “The Deluged Civilization of the Caucasus Isthmus.” He died in 1932 at age 65.
James E. Brittain

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Fig. 3. Fessenden was responsible for the design and erection of this tower at the NESCO station in Brant Rock. It was a cylindrical steel tower 440 ft high, insulated at the base and with four horizontal arms, each 80 ft long, at the top. (Photo courtesy of The Smithsonian Institute).
PROCEEDINGS OF THE IEEE. VOL. 84. NO.11. NOVEMBER 1996

November 5th, 2010

October 2010 History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 11, November 1996.

Harris J. Ryan and High Voltage Engineering

Eighty years ago this month, Harris J. Ryan presented a paper on porcelain insulators for high voltage transmission at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) in San Francisco, CA. At the time he was a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University and his paper was related to a series of laboratory tests carried out at Stanford during the summer of 1916. A pioneer educator in electrical engineering, Ryan already was known for his research in high voltage engineering and , was later to serve as a president of the AIEE.
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Ryan (see Fig. 1) was born in 1866 in Matamoras, FA. After attending Baltimore City College and Lebanon Valley College for three years, in 1883 Ryan enrolled in engineering at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, where he studied under Prof. William A. Anthony. While at Cornell, a field trip to a plant owned by Frank Sprague stimulated Ryan’s interest in high voltage transmission. Following his graduation from Cornell in 1887, he worked for the Western Engineering Company in Nebraska for a year before returning to Cornell to teach. Fig. 2 shows Ryan giving a lecture at Cornell around the turn of the century. His first technical paper concerned power transformers and was published in the Transactions of the AIEE in 1890. Soon afterward he constructed an experimental oil-insulated transformer suitable for high voltage applications.

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Ryan introduced the cathode ray tube as a research instrument in the United States. He acquired his first cathode ray tubes from Germany where they had been developed by Ferdinand Braun and they were known for some time as Braun-Ryan tubes in the United States. Ryan published an AIEE paper in 1903 on the use of the cathode ray tube as an alternating current wave indicator and received a U.S. patent for an “electric wave form tracer” in 1906. The patent drawing is shown in Fig. 3. He used the instrument to collect data for a formula expressing the relationship between corona discharge and the size and separation of conductors in a transmission line. The formula was included in an AIEE paper published in the 1905 Transactions.

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Ryan left Cornell in 1905 to accept a teaching position at Stanford University where he continued his .research on high voltage phenomena. Among his numerous publications was a 1915 PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS paper on radio frequency high voltage dis¬charges. To facilitate his research on high voltage insulators, he developed an improved “megger” instrument which extended the range of resistance by a factor of about 160 compared with available commercial instruments at the time. His megger, shown in Fig. 4, utilized a kenotron (vacuum tube rectifier) to furnish up to 25 kV direct current for measuring leakage current in insulators. Fig. 5 shows a cutaway view of a porcelain insulator or guarding scheme. Ryan persuaded a number of power companies to sponsor the comprehensive tests of porcelain insulators at Stanford which he and two colleagues discussed in three AIEE papers presented in November 1916.

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In his paper, Ryan discussed the electrical, mechanical, durability, and cost requirements for successful high voltage insulators. Among his conclusions were that porcelain with appreciable porosity should never be used for suspension insulators and that “defective materials in otherwise well designed and manufactured insulators have been responsi¬ble for most of their service failures.”  He also mentioned that clear fused quartz seemed an attractive substitute for porcelain for high voltage insulators.

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Ryan was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1920 and served as president of the AIEE during 1923-1924. The AIEE awarded him its Edison Medal in 1925 as recognition for his contributions to the art and science of high voltage power transmission. A high-voltage laboratory named for him was dedicated at Stanford in 1926. In his later years, Ryan worked on the development of electric hearing aids for hearing-impaired individuals like himself. He retired from Stanford in 1931 and died in 1934 at age 68.
Publisher Item Identifier S 0018-9219(96)08685-9.

Fig. 1. Harris J. Ryan, considered to be the first great electrical engineer at Cornell University, taught his specialty as a member of the Mechanical Engineering Department from 1888 until 1905 [I].

Fig. 2. Ryan in an electrical engineering lecture hall at Cornell, circa 1900. Ryan prepared almost 1000 students for electrical engineering careers [I).

Fig. 3. Drawing of the cathode ray tube modification, patented by Ryan in 1906 [1].

Fig. 4. Connection drawing of Ryan’s high voltage megger. Note that K indicates the kenotron vacuum tube, G is a galvanometer, and S a porcelain insulator and load, referred to as a circuit “guarding scheme.” [2]
Fig. 5. Details of the Ryan porcelain insulator or “guarding scheme,” as depicted in the J. Cameron Clark AlEE Transactions paper [2].

REFERENCES

[1] Cornell Engineering Quart., vol. 2, no. 2, ]976. [2] J. Cameron Clark, AlEE Trans., vol. 35, Nov. ]916.
[2] J. Cameron Clark, AIEE Trans., vol. 35, Nov 1916

James E. Brittain

PROCEEDINGS OF THE IEEE. VOL. 84. NO.1!. NOVEMBER 1996

October 5th, 2010

May 2010 History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past 

Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 10, October 1996.

John S. Stone and the Professionalization of Communications Engineering

Eighty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by John Stone concerning oscillations in electric circuits. At the time he was a self-employed communications consultant in New York City and the immediate past president of the IRE. As one of the first practicing engineers to apply sophisticated mathematical analysis to the improvement of communications systems, Stone (See Fig. 1) played a significant role in the emergence of communications engineering as a profession.

Stone was born in Dover, VA, in 1869. He spent his childhood in Europe and Egypt, where his father, a former U.S. Army general, helped modernize the Egyptian Army. In 1886, Stone enrolled in the School of Mines at Columbia University, New York, but in 1888 he transferred to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, where he devoted two years to the study of physics and electrical engineering. He spent the summer of 1889 in Paris, France, in charge of an exhibit of the American Bell Telephone at the Paris Exposition.

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Fig. 1. John S. Stone, a pioneer in wireless telegraphy, was a founder

of the Society of Wireless Telegraph Engineers and a co-founder

of the IRE. (Reproduced from A Century of Electricals, IEEE Press, 1984.)

In 1890, Stone joined the technical staff of the American Bell Telephone Company in Boston, MA, where he worked until 1899. During this period, he did both theoretical and experimental work related to wire telephony and wireless communication. He introduced Oliver Heaviside’s transmission line theory to his fellow engineers and corresponded with Heaviside concerning applications of the theory. Stone received about 20 U.S. patents during his decade with the company, including an 1897 patent on the use of bimetallic wire with high self-induction to facilitate impedance matching. He also patented the Stone common battery system for use in telephony and experimented with the use of resonant circuits to enable multiplex transmission. His work set the stage for the introduction of loading coils and wave filters by a former assistant, George A. Campbell.

Stone was a consulting engineer in Boston from 1899 to 1902 when he founded the Stone Telegraph and Telephone Company to manufacture and market a system of wireless communication. Fig. 2 shows the typical schematic diagram of a Stone wireless telegraphic system and Fig. 3 shows the typical layout of apparatus in the telegraphic station.

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Fig. 2. This is a schematic for a complete wireless telegraph

station, designed around a cut-over switch which switches the

antenna from sending circuitry on the left to receiving apparatus

on the right. (Reproduced from Principles of Wireless Telephony

by George W. Pierce, McGraw-Hill, 1910.)

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Fig. 3. A view of the wireless telegraph installation including the

distinctive sending helix on the table. (Reproduced from Principles

of Wireless Telephony by George W. Pierce, McGraw-Hill, 1910.)

He presented a paper on the theory of wireless telegraphy at the International Electrical Congress in St. Louis, MO, in 1904. He also gave lectures on electric oscillations and resonance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As an outgrowth of the seminars for his employees, he founded the Society of Wireless Telegraph Engineers (SWTE) in Boston in 1907. Stone served as the first president of the SWTE and its members were commonly known as “swatties.” Twenty-two members, including Stone and Lee de Forest, became charter members of the IRE when it was formed in May 1912 through a merger of SWTE and the Wireless Institute of New York City. After the Stone Telegraph and Telephone Company went out of business in 1910, he moved to New York where he worked as a consultant and as an expert witness in patent litigation cases.

Stone called attention to the potential of the de Forest audion as a telephone amplifier in a paper at the Franklin Institute in 1912. In October 1912, he arranged a demonstration of the audion for engineers of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). This initiative led AT&T to purchase rights to the de Forest patents on the audion and to develop it into a reliable repeater for long distance telephony.

Stone served as the president of the IRE in 1915 and was awarded the IRE Medal of Honor in 1923. He received approximately 120 patents during his career. In 1919, he moved to San Diego, CA, for health reasons but continued to work as an AT&T consulting engineer from 1920 to 1934. He died in 1943 at age 73.

James E. Brittain

School of History , Technology and Society

Georgia Institute of Technology

May 11th, 2010

April 2010 History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Marc Bell, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 9, September 1996.

Sergei A. Schelkunoff and Antenna Theory

Fifty-five years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by Sergei A. Schelkunoff on the theory of antennas. At the time, he was a member of the research staff at the Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL) where he worked for about three decades. (See Fig. 1.) Schelkunoff made important contributions to the theory of coaxial cables and wave guides as well as to antennas.

Schelkunoff was born in Samara, Russia, in 1897. He was a student at the University of Moscow when his education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. He served in the Russian Army during the War before corning to the United States by way of Manchuria and Japan in 1921. He learned English and received both the B.A. and M.A. degrees in mathematics at the State College of Washington (now Washington University), Seattle. He worked in the Engineering Department of the Western Electric Company during 1923-1925 and spent a few months at the BTL in 1926. He taught at the State College of Washington from 1926-1929 and received the Ph.D. degree in mathematics at Columbia University in 1928 before returning to research at BTL.

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Fig. 1.  Schelkunoff studying waveguide transmission in the early
1930’s.   (Reprinted from P. C. Mahon, Mission Communications:
 The Story of Bell Laboratories, 1975.)

One of Schelkunoffs early assignments was to investigate the theory of coaxial transmission lines. He published a paper on this topic in the Bell System Technical Journal in 1934. Subsequently, he studied the electromagnetic theory of wave guides for rnicrowaves and was coauthor with John R. Carson and Sallie P. Mead of a paper on that subject in the BSTJ in 1936. Schelkunoff s first IRE paper was on applications of the Summerfeld integral and appeared in the October 1936 PROCEEDINGS. He authored another IRE paper “Transrnission Theory of Pure Electromagnetic Waves,” published in November 1937. He treated the theory of spherical waves in a 1938 paper in the Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and followed this with a 1939 IRE paper on the induced electromotive force method of computing radiation from antennas. In his September 1941 IRE paper, Schelkunoff addressed the ambitious topic of the “theory of antennas of arbitrary size and shape.” He explained that his mathematical analysis of antennas was “precisely the analysis appropriate to wave guides and electric horns.” He observed that:

We may also think of the antennas as the wall of an electric horn with an aperture so wide that one can hardly see the horn itself-just like a Cheshire cat: only the grin can be seen.

Schelkunoff suggested that the physical picture which emerged from his mathematical analysis was “attractive to an engineer.” He began his analysis with Maxwell’s equations and hypothetical conical antennas and went on to show how to apply the results to antennas of other shapes although they were “definitely more complicated.” He concluded that he believed that “the antenna theory is in such a shape that accurate results can be calculated if all visible factors such as base capacitance and antenna shapes are taken into consideration.”

Schelkunoff was awarded the Morris Liebmann Memorial Prize by the IRE in 1942 and was elected a Fellow of IRE in 1944. During World War ll, he served as a technical consultant to the National Defense Research Committee and to the U.S. Navy. He authored Electromagnetic Waves (1943), Applied Mathematics for Engineers and Scientists (1948), and Advanced Antenna Theory (1952). He retired from BTL in 1960 and subsequently taught electrical engineering at Columbia University. He died in 1992 at age 95.

James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology

March 31st, 2010

March 2010 – History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Bob Morrison, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 8, August 1996.

Semi J. Begun and Magnetic Recording

Fifty-five years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by Semi J. Begun on magnetic recording and applications for radio broadcasting. At the time, the author was employed as a research engineer at the Brush Development Company in Cleveland, OH, where he worked from 1938 to 1971. He made numerous contributions to the technology of magnetic recording and was elected a Fellow of the IRE in 1952.

Begun was born in Danzig, Germany, in 1905. He received the Master’s degree from the Institute of Technology
in Berlin in 1929. He earned a doctorate from the same institution in 1933. In 1929 he joined the firm Schuchardt AG in Berlin, where he did developmental work on a steel magnetic recorder known as the Dailygraph, which is shown in Fig. 1. This machine featured a cartridge with two wire wheels and could be used in offices for taking dictation or to record telephone messages. In 1932, the International Telephone and Telegraph Company acquired Schuchardt AG and transferred magnetic recording research and development activities to Lorenz Ag, a subsidiary in Berlin. Begun directed a small group at Lorenz which began work on a steel tape recorder as an alternative to steel wire. The steel tape recorder developed by Begun and his group is shown in Fig. 2. However, the rise to power of Hitler and the National Socialists in Germany caused Begun to emigrate to the United States in 1935.

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Soon after his arrival in the United States, Begun and two associates organized the Magneton Company to manage his magnetic recording patents. Subsequently, the Brush Development Company negotiated a license agreement with Magneton and Begun was hired to lead a group at Brush devoted to the development of magnetic recorders. They worked on various types of wire, disk, and tape recorders although none achieved commercial success prior to the war. Fig. 3 illustrates an example of a steel tape endless loop recorder developed during 1939-1941.

In his August 1941 PROCEEDINGS paper, Begun reported that magnetic recording was already in use in Europe in the radio broadcasting field but not yet in the United States. He pointed out that magnetic recording permitted a time delay and was useful when repetition was necessary.  During World War II,  Begun contributed to the design of magnetic recorders for military applications including wire recorders for use in aircraft. He also did preliminary work on the use of paper or plastic tape coated with magnetic materials. This work was done with the assistance of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M).

 

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After the war in 1946, the Brush Company began marketing the so-called “Soundmirror” which employed a paper tape with magnetic oxide coating. This model is shown in Fig. 4. Begun also worked on television and computer applications of magnetic recording before retiring from Brush in 1971.

After leaving Brush, he founded and served as President of Auctor Associates, a consulting firm in Cleveland. He participated in a study of the causes of violence carried out by The Society for Prevention of Violence and served as the President of the Society during 1989. He became a strong advocate of reforms in elementary education and urged the IEEE-USA to take a more active role in changing “an education system that has not responded with vigor to changing social conditions.” Begun died in 1995 at the age of 89.

James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology

March 2nd, 2010

February 2010 – History of Electrical Engineering

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Bob Morrison, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 7, July 1996.

William Le Roy Emmet and Turboelectric Engineering

Sixty-five years ago, William Le Roy Emmet’s The Autobiography of an Engineer was published. The formal portrait of Emmet shown in Fig. 1 was included in the book. The book provided a fascinating personal account of his career of almost half a century devoted to electrical power engineering. In the preface, Emmet characterized engineering as a “thrilling profession to those who are suited to it, full of dangers, hopes, worries, and gratifications.” Later in the book, he attributed much of his success to “a definiteness of purpose backed by a dogged perseverance.” He added that “the important part of engineering is the detail and the good engineers are those who keep their eye close to it.” He mentioned that he had always had a keen interest in other areas than engineering including “literature, history, science, philosophy, music, and art in various forms.”

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Fig. 1.  Emmet at age 70, as painted by Ellen Emmet Rand in
1929.  (Courtesy of The Autobiography of an Engineer, 1931.)

Emmet was born in New Rochelle, NY, in 1859. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1881 [See Fig.2(a)] and served a tour on the U.S.S. Essex before leaving the Navy in 1883. His first experience in the field of electric power was gained with the United States illuminating Company which he left to join the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company in 1888. At Sprague, Emmet worked on the installation of electric street railway systems in several cities, including Cleveland, St. Louis, Wichita, and Harrisburg, PA. Subsequently, he worked briefly for the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company and for the Buffalo Railway Company before joining the Edison General Electric Company as district engineer in the Chicago district in 1891. When the General Electric Company (GE) was formed through a merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston, Emmet became a GE employee and was assigned to the Lighting Department in Schenectady, NY, in 1894.

Emmet made significant contributions to ac power systems including the design of large rotary converters which were used widely to convert transmitted ac power to direct current needed for the manufacture of aluminum, electric railways, and other applications. He was a leader in constructing the second largest power generating plant at Niagara Falls, NY, which used GE apparatus. His career was interrupted by the Spanish-American War when he served as a navigational officer on the collier Justin [See Fig. 2(b)]. When he returned to GE, he was assigned to help develop the steam turbine which began to supplant reciprocating steam engines in the power generating field in the first decade of the 20th Century.  Emmet directed the construction and installation of a 5000 kW turboalternator at the Fisk Street power plant of the Chicago Edison Company in 1903.

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Fig. 2.  Emmet as a cadet in the U. S. Naval Academy in 1880. 

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Fig. 3.  Emmet was back in uniform in 1898 as a Navigational Officer on the collier Justin during the Spanish-American War (Photos courtesy of The Autobiography of an Engineer, 1931.)

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Fig. 4.  The U.S.S. New Mexico was the first battleship to have Emmet’s turboelectric propulsion system installed
by GE under a 1915 Navy contract.  Illustration courtesy of GE, 1920.

Emmet became a leading advocate of the electric propulsion of ships and his efforts led to a GE contract to equip the Navy collier Jupiter with turboelectric drive. The Jupiter proved quite successful during World War I and later was converted into an aircraft carrier and renamed the Langley. In 1915, GE received a contract to install the Emmet propulsion system on a new battleship, the New Mexico, as shown in Fig. 3 (known initially as the California). First tested in sea trials in 1918, the ship’s propulsion system could deliver up to 32,000 hp and achieve a speed of 21 kn. Subsequently, GE installed an even more powerful drive system in high speed battle cruisers known as the Saratoga and the Lexington. These ships, later converted to aircraft carriers, were designed with 180,000 hp turboalternator propulsion and a speed of 35 kn.

During World War I, Emmet served as a member of the Naval Consulting Board formed to provide expert advice on military innovations. He received the prestigious Edison Medal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1919 in recognition of his numerous contributions to electric power engineering including ship propulsion. He received the Elliott Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1920 and also was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Emmet devoted a great deal of time and energy to the development and promotion of mercury vapor turbines as a more efficient power generation system than steam turbines. A few mercury turbines were installed as a result of his efforts but the difficulties and risks in using the new technology led to termination of the development after his retirement. He died in 1941 at age 82.

James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology
 

February 1st, 2010

January 2010 – History of Electrical Engineering

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past

Submitted by Bob Morrison, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 5, May 1996.

Fireless Fireworks: Lighting at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915

Eighty years ago this month, Walter D’Arcy Ryan presented a paper at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) on the illumination of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Ryan had served as Chief of Illumination for the Exposition and he also served as the Director of the Illuminating Engineering Laboratory for the General Electric Company (GE). American poet Edwin Markham characterized  the spectacular Exposition lighting as “the greatest revelation of beauty that was ever seen on the earth.” Ryan’s paper, as published in the 1916 volume of the TRANSACTIONS OF THE AIEE was lavishly illustrated with color plates showing illuminated buildings, towers, fountains, and other features of the Exposition. This blending of aesthetics and illumination engineering produced perhaps the most elegantly illustrated technical paper ever included in the TRANSACTIONS.

The lighting system at the Exposition was said “to have initiated a new era in the art of illumination” through the use of screened floodlights combined with relief lighting, rather than strings of lights to outline structures. Ryan wrote that the lighting of the Exposition “appealed to the imagination and feelings of the masses, and carried a message much the same as painting or music.” Rather than designing the system for maximum efficiency from a narrow engineering point of view, he had sought to bring out “the architectural beauties” of the structures “in the most effective manner, bathed in a harmony of color.” However, the design work had been done in a highly scientific manner based on preliminary tests and calculations performed at the GE llluminating Engineering Laboratory .

One of the more interesting features of the Exposition was the so-called “Tower of Jewels,” which contained more than 100,000 “novagem jewels.” Cut from glass having a high index of refraction, these “jewels” were mounted to move in the wind while illuminated with projected light. The tower was flooded by light from a series of arc light projectors which were equipped with screens to enable variation in color. Red relief lighting filled in shadows cast by the flood lights.

Another technique used to entertain spectators was the “electric-steam color scintillator” which combined beams of colored and white light from a battery of searchlights with smoke and steam to produce “fireless fireworks.” This was said to provide “artistic color combinations and blendings impossible with ordinary fireworks.” The visual effects were further enhanced by means of a steam locomotive operated at high speed with its brake on to produce “great volumes of steam and smoke. ..which, when illuminated with various colors, created a wonderful spectacle.” The scintillator used a suite of 48 hand-controlled arc projectors, each equipped with seven colored gelatine screens, enabling diverse lighting effects.

An “electric kaleidoscope” illuminated the glass dome of the Palace of Horticulture with light from 12 projectors which produced beams “intercepted by revolving color screens and shadow bars” before passing through a system of revolving lenses. Two 95-ft high fountains located in the Court of the Universe were highlighted by means of 96 lamps in 12 rows which consumed 144 kW of power. The extensive use of colored gelatine screens in the Exposition system enabled the operators to use green illumination on March 17, orange on Orange Day, and red on the ninth anniversary of the “burning of San Francisco.”

Ryan also directed other lighting extravaganzas including lighting Niagara Falls for a month in 1907 by means of 44 searchlights with color screens, but the Panama-Pacific Exposition proved to be his greatest tour de force. Those members of the AIEE who did not attend the Panama-Pacific Exposition must have felt considerable astonishment and delight upon receiving that issue of the TRANSACTIONS containing Ryan’s paper with its marvelous color-plate illustrations.

James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology

January 6th, 2010

November 2009 – History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Submitted by Bob Morrison, Editor

Copyright 1996 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. 84, No. 4, April 1996.

Clarence W. Hansell and Philip S. Carter

Sixty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a joint paper by Clarence W. Hansell and Philip S. Carter on the control of frequency of radio transmitters. At the time, both men worked as research and development engineers for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) at its transmitter laboratory at Rocky Point on Long Island, NY. Both engineers made numerous contributions to communications engineering during their long careers at RCA and both became Fellows of the IRE.

Hansell was born in Indiana in 1898. He received a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in 1919. His first job was with the General Electric Company (GE) where he was assigned to help test and install long-wave radio transmitters using the Alexanderson 200 kW radio alternators. Subsequently, he collaborated with Walter R. G. Baker and William C. White on the development of a long-wave vacuum tube transmitter suitable for use in transoceanic radio telegraphy. Hansell joined the engineering staff of RCA in the early 1920’s and helped develop shortwave radio equipment for commercial transoceanic service. He became director of the transmitter laboratory at Rocky Point in 1925 and continued to take an active role in research in radio communication and also experimental television, beginning in the 1930’s. He contributed to radar development during World War II and served on a team of engineers sent to assess German innovations including magnetic tape recorders shortly after the war ended.

An article published in 1947 ranked Hansell among the all-time leaders in patented inventions with more than 240 US patents. He eventually received about 400 patents. Hansell retired from RCA in 1963 and died in 1967 at age 69.

Carter was born in Connecticut in 1896. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1918. He served a few months in the Army Signal Corps before joining GE as an engineer in 1919. He soon transferred to RCA where he worked with Harold H. Beverage on development of long-wave receiving antennas. Later Carter spent time at various RCA transmitter stations in New Jersey and Massachusetts before being assigned to the transmitter laboratory at Rocky Point in 1926. He received his first patent in 1927 for inventing an improved method of coupling a transmitter to an antenna located some distance away. Other inventions followed including the folded dipole, the bow-tie antenna, and the biconical antenna. In January 1939 Carter published an article on a universal transmission line chart in the RCA Review. The Carter chart enjoyed considerable use during World War II and later as an alternative to the Smith chart.

During the War, Carter helped establish a ground observer network to report sightings of German submarines along the East Coast. He also contributed to the design of antennas for use in electronics countermeasures and spent time in Europe in 1944 installing communications systems. He was active professionally in the IRE serving on the Board of Editors and several committees. He was Chairman of the professional group on Antennas and Propagation in 1953-1954. He died a few months before his planned retirement from RCA in 1961 at age 64.

James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology

November 4th, 2009

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