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

George H. Brown

Sixty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by George H. Brown concerning earth currents in the proximity of radio transmitting antennas. At the time Brown was a young research engineer with the Radio Corporation of American (RCA), where he worked for nearly 40 years and became a well known authority on antennas and television systems.
In his February 1935 paper, Brown gave examples of how to calculate the magnitude and phase of earth currents near the base of broadcast antennas and the power dissipation associated with such currents. He went on to discuss the benefits of artificial ground systems of buried conductors and how extensive they needed to be. He also included some experimental data measured using a vertical antenna operated over a copper screen.
Brown was born in 1908 in Wisconsin and graduated in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1930. He continued his education at Wisconsin as a Research Fellow in the Electrical Engineering Department, receiving the M.S. degree in 1931 and the Ph.D. in 1933. His doctoral thesis was on broadcast antennas.
He joined the engineering staff of RCA in Camden, NJ, in 1933. During his long career, he received about 80 US patents and was author or coauthor of more than 100 technical papers. Among his more notable papers was one on directional antennas which he published in the PROCEEDINGS in January 1937. Dr. Brown wrote me in 1984 that RCA had sent out more than 15,000 reprints of this paper in response to requests since it was published. It was during his years at Camden that Brown invented the so-called turnstile antenna which enjoyed wide usage as an omnidirectional antenna for FM radio and later television. Beginning in 1939, he headed a small research group which conducted research on radio frequency heating which proved applicable to the bonding of thermoplastics and other uses.
In 1942, Brown moved to RCA’ s laboratories in Princeton, NJ, where he spent the rest of his career. He became Director of the RCA Systems Research Laboratory in 1952 and vice president of engineering in 1959. He was a leader in the development of the compatible system of color television at RCA, which became the industry standard. In 1965, Brown was named to the position of executive vice president of research and engineering and served on the RCA Board of Directors from 1965 to 1972. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1965 and received the Edison Medal of the IEEE in 1967. He retired from RCA in 1972 and subsequently wrote an entertaining and informative autobiography entitled And Part of Which I Was: Recollections of a Research Engineer, published in 1979. He died in December 1987 at age 79.

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

Submitted by Bob Morrison, Editor
Copyright 1995 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. 2, February 1995.