Seventy years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper on long-wave radio measurements by Harold H. Beverage and Harold O. Peterson. Both of the authors were in the Engineering Department of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and Beverage already was known for his invention of the wave antenna destined to be known as the “Beverage antenna. “
In their December 1923 paper, Beverage and Peterson discussed a method which they had used to collect data on the field intensity of long waves propagated over long distances. Their method involved the use of a calibrated signal generator as a standard for comparison with signals received from remote transmitters. Their measurements enabled them to determine the effective height of transmitting antennas and the so-called “absorption factor” of the Austin-Cohen transmission equation. They provided data for a number of commercial long-wave stations located in the United States and in Europe and which operated at frequencies ranging from 17 to 26 kHz.
Beverage was born in North Haven, Maine, in October 1893 and graduated in electrical engineering from the University of Maine in 1915. He developed an early interest in amateur radio and operated his first station in 1910. He also became a talented musician and managed to pay his way through college by performing with a local-group. Following graduation he joined the General Electric Company (GE) in Schenectady, New York, and worked in the Test Department during 1915-1916. He then became a member of a group of radio specialists at GE headed by Ernst F. W. Alexanderson. Beverage was assigned to work on the so-called “barrage receiver” which employed two long-wire antennas extended along the ground in opposite directions. The barrage system had been conceived by Alexanderson as a method to counter possible German jamming of radio communication by allied forces.
It was while he was working at a receiving station near Bar Harbor, Maine, that Beverage discovered the unidirectional property of a long wire acting as a wave antenna. Two of his colleagues at GE, Chester W. Rice and Edward W. Kellogg, developed a theory which indicated that the wave antenna should be terminated in a resistance equal to its characteristic or surge impedance for optimum performance. Beverage received a patent on the wave antenna and was coauthor, with Rice and Kellogg, of a paper disclosing its properties published in February 1923. They mentioned a nine-mile long wave antenna located in the vicinity of Riverhead, Long Island, which they called the “Atlantic coast ear” of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Beverage was awarded the Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award in 1923 by the IRE in recognition of his discovery.
In 1920 Beverage left GE to join RCA, where he was a research engineer in charge of communication receiver development until 1929. He was actively involved in the shift from long waves to short waves for long-distance radio communication. He and his colleagues at RCA, including Harold Peterson, developed the technique of diversity reception as a way to deal with fading of shortwave signals. Beverage was coauthor of two IRE papers published in April 1931 on the subject of diversity reception. He served as Chief Research Engineer at RCA from 1930 to 1941 and contributed to television antenna research during the 1930’s. He was President of the IRE during 1937 and received the Armstrong Medal of the Radio Club of America in 1938.
Beverage became a Vice-President in charge of research and development at RCA in 1941. During World War II he served as a consultant to the Secretary of War and worked on antenna installations in North Africa, Italy, and Great Britain. He helped design the communication systems used in the D-day invasion in 1944. He received the IRE Medal of Honor in 1945 in recognition of his many contributions to radio communication and the IRE. He retired from RCA in 1958 but continued to work as a part-time consultant while pursuing his hobbies of music and photography. He died at Port Jefferson, New York, in January 1993 at age 99.
James E. Brittain
School of History, Technology, and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology
Submitted by Dick Reiman, Historian
Copyright 1993 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. 81, No.12, December 1993.