September 2008 – History

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
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. 83, No. 6, June 1995.

Raymond A. Heising
Seventy years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by Raymond A. Reising concerning the use of single sideband modulation for transatlantic radio communication. At the time, Heising, a future IRE president, was a research engineer with the Bell Telephone Laboratories.

Heising was born in 1888 in Minnesota and graduated in electrical engineering from the University of North Dakota in 1912. He went on to earn an M.S. in physics at the University of Wisconsin in 1914 and, the same year, joined the research department of the Western Electric Company New York City. One of his first assignments was to design an experimental two-channel carrier system for wire telephony. At about the same time he developed a successful vacuum-tube voltmeter circuit.

During 1915 Heising participated in the design of a vacuum-tube radio transmitter which could be picked up in France from a site in Arlington, VA. The transmitter used several hundred tubes in parallel to achieve the necessary power for transatlantic experiments. During World War I, he worked on military communication systems and, in the process, invented the Heising constant-current modulator. He authored an IRE paper on modulation published in August 1921 and received the Morris N. Liebmann Award of the IRE in recognition of his contribution to radio modulators. He became an IRE Fellow in 1923. The Heising modulator was used in radio broadcast transmitters constructed by the Western Electric Company in the 1920’s as well as in military applications.

In his June 1925 paper, Heising reported the results of single-sideband radio tests between the United States and Great Britain which had begun during 1923. He included a brief explanation of the technical advantages of single sideband such as lower power requirements and more efficient use of available spectrum. He discussed the use of balanced modulators and electric filters to suppress the carrier and one sideband. He provided details of equipment currently in use for transatlantic radio service using single sideband.

Heising was elected president of the IRE in 1939 and served several terms on the IRE Board of Directors. He was a leader in the initiation of the professional group system conceived as a way to counter the tendency of new technical interest areas to form independent organizations separate from the IRE. This contribution was cited when he received the IRE Founder’s Medal in 1957. He also was awarded the Armstrong Medal of the Radio Club of America in 1953. Heising received about 125 patents and worked in the patent department of Bell Laboratories from 1945 until his retirement in 1953. He died in 1965 at age 76.
James E. Brittain
School of History , Technology and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology