SCANNING THE PAST: A HISTORY OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING FROM THE PAST

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. 12, July 1997.

Alien B. DuMont: A Pioneer in Electronic Instruments, Radio, and Television

Sixty-five years ago this month, the proceedings of the institute of radio engineers (IRE) included a paper by Alien B. DuMont reporting on Continue reading

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. 11, November 1997.

Edward W. Herold: A Leader in the Development of Color Television

Sixty years ago this month, the proceedings of the institute of radio engineers (IRE) included a paper by Edward W. Herold (Fig. 1) on an application of negative resistance in vacuum-tube circuits. At the time, he was a research engineer at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), where he worked for approximately 36 years. He received the IEEE Founder’s Medal in 1976 as recognition for his outstanding contributions to the electrical engineer­ing profession, including his leadership in the development of the shadow-mask picture tube for color television.

Herold was born in New York City in 1907, and devel­oped an early interest in amateur radio. He worked as a technical assistant in the Engineering Department of the Western Electric Company in 1924-1925, and at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1925-1926. Early in 1927, he became a vacuum-tube tester at the E. T. Cunningham Company, known for the high quality of its electronic tubes, and he continued to work there during summer vacations as an undergraduate. He received the degree in physics from the University of Virginia in 1930 and the M.S. degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1942.

Herold joined an advanced development group at the Radiotron subsidiary of RCA in July 1930, where his group was responsible for the development of new types of vacuum tubes suitable for radio applications. One of his first projects was an investigation of secondary emission in screen-grid tubes (tetrodes), and his first patent application, filed in 1932, concerned a method to suppress secondary emission (Fig. 2). This invention was utilized in the Type 48 power tetrode, and the related research was reported in his first IRE paper, published in the October 1935 proceedings, on the subject of “negative resistance and devices for obtaining it.” During the 1930’s, he also con­tributed to improvements and applications of pentode power amplifiers and the pentagrid converter tube. He also worked on wide-band amplifiers suitable for television receivers and designed and built a home television receiver in time to pick up broadcasts originating at the 1939 World’s Fair. He published a Continue reading

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. 9, September 1997.

Ralph Bown and the Golden Age of Propagation Research

    Sixty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper by R. Bown (Fig. 1) on the development of transoceanic radiotelephony. At the time, he was director of radio research at the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Bown already had served as president of the IRE and was a future recipient of the IRE Medal of Honor. He was a leader in the collection and analysis of wave propagation data as the useful radio spectrum expanded to include shorter wavelengths after World War I.

  Bown was born in Fairport, NY, in 1891 and graduated in engineering from Cornell University in 1913. He continued his education at Cornell, where he received the master’s degree in 1915 and the Ph.D. degree in 1917. He served as a physics instructor while completing his graduate studies and was an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps (Fig. 2) during 1917-1919. He joined the development and research department of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in Continue reading

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, “

 Harold S. Black and the Negative Feedback Amplifier

Scanning the Past” which covers a reprint of an article appearing in the Proceedings of the IEEE Vol. 85, No. 8, August 1997.

Seventy years ago this month, H. S. Black (Fig. 1) of Bell Telephone Laboratories conceived the negative feedback amplifier while aboard the Lackawanna Ferry on his way to work. Thirty years later, M. J. Kelly, president of the Bell Labs, characterized Black’s invention as ranking with the de Forest audion “as one of the two inventions of broadest scope and significance in electronics and communications of the past 50 years.” Kelly credited the negative feed­back amplifier with having made possible the long-distance telecommunications networks that covered the country, as well as transoceanic telephone cables. He noted that by 1957, the application of the negative feedback principle had transcended telecommunications and had stimulated “the entire explosive extension of the area of control, both electrical and mechanical.”

Black was born in Leominister, MA, in 1898 and grad­uated in electrical engineering from the Worcester Poly­technic Institute in 1921. That year, he joined the Systems Engineering Department of the Western Electric Company in New York City, which became part of Bell Laboratories in 1925. He frequently came to the office on Sundays to peruse technical reports on projects covering the past two decades. His initial assignment was to investigate distortion in vacuum-tube amplifiers used as repeaters in telephonic carrier systems. He undertook a laborious analysis of distor­tion and linearity requirements as a function of the number of channels and designed various amplifiers in a quest for circuits suitable for multichannel amplifiers used in tandem over long distances. During the 1920’s, he worked closely with Kelly, who was in charge of vacuum-tube research.

 In March 1923, Black attended an inspiring talk by C. P. Steinmetz, which, according to Black, provided a stimulus to his invention of a “feedforward amplifier.” This invention, which he patented in 1928, utilized biconjugate networks to isolate and cancel distortion. The technique proved fairly successful in laboratory tests but required frequent adjustment of the filament current and plate voltage Continue reading

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. 7, July 1997.

Frank J. Sprague and the Electrification of Urban Transportation

Frank J. Sprague (Fig. 1), known for his pioneering contributions to electric traction, electric elevators, and other applications of electric motors, was born 140 years ago this month. In recognition of his achievements in the field of electric power, he received the Edison Medal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) in 1910. He also served as president of the AIEE during 1892-1893.

The son of the plant superintendent of a hat factory, Sprague was born in Milford, CT, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1878, the same year that the Edison Electric Light Company was incorporated. He served for about two years on a naval ship known as the Richmond and acted as a special correspondent of the Boston Herald while General Ulysses S. Grant spent time on the ship during visits to China and Japan. Subsequently, Sprague served aboard the Lancaster, stationed in the Mediterranean, and installed an electric call bell on the ship. He managed to observe an exhibition of electric lighting systems, including that of Edison, in Paris, France in 1881.

In 1882, Ensign Sprague was granted leave to attend and report on the Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition in London, England. He served on the awards jury for exhibits of dynamos, electric lights, and gas engines Continue reading

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. 8, August 1997.

Harold S. Black and the Negative Feedback Amplifier

Seventy years ago this month, H. S. Black (Fig. 1) of Bell Telephone Laboratories conceived the negative feedback amplifier while aboard the Lackawanna Ferry on his way to work. Thirty years later, M. J. Kelly, president of the Bell Labs, characterized Black’s invention as ranking with the de Forest audion “as one of the two inventions of broadest scope and significance in electronics and communications of the past 50 years.” Kelly credited the negative feed­back amplifier with having made possible the long-distance telecommunications networks that covered the country, as well as transoceanic telephone cables. He noted that by 1957, the application of the negative feedback principle had transcended telecommunications and had stimulated “the entire explosive extension Continue reading

History of Electrical Engineering

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. 6, June 1997.

 Edwin H. Colpitts, a communications engineer and re­search manager, was born 125 years ago this year. Remem­bered especially as the inventor of the Colpitts oscillator, he made significant contributions to both wire and radio telephony.

  Born in 1872 in New Brunswick, Canada, Colpitts grad­uated from Mount Allison College in 1893. After two years as a teacher and school principal in Newfoundland, he enrolled at Harvard University, where he studied physics and mathematics and received a Master’s degree in 1897. He remained at Harvard for two additional years while taking advanced courses and serving as a laboratory assis­tant to John Trowbridge, director of the Jefferson Physical Laboratory.

  Early in 1899, Colpitts joined the engineering staff of the American Bell Telephone Company in Boston, MA, where he began as an assistant to George A. Campbell, known for his Continue reading

SEPTEMBER 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. 5, May 1997.

Shintaro Uda and the Wave Projector

Seventy years ago this month, the proceedings OF the institute of radio engineers (IRE) included a paper by Shintaro Uda (Fig. 1), a Japanese engineer, on the radia­tion of short waves. His paper included information on a recently invented antenna, which he called a wave projector but which later became known as the Yagi-Uda antenna. During his long career as a teacher and researcher at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, Uda made significant contributions to communications engineering.

Uda was born in 1896 in Toyama Ken, Japan. He studied electrical engineering under H. Yagi at Tohoku University and graduated in 1924, and then joined a communications research group directed by Yagi. One of Uda’s first projects was to design a vacuum-tube oscillator that would operate at wavelengths of’around 440 cm. Experiments using the oscillator as a transmitter led to the discovery of the wave projector, Uda initially used a resonant loop antenna and observed the directive radiation it produced. He then tried placing a parasitic loop near the driven loop in an effort to obtain a more directive beam. The idea for this arrangement apparently was suggested by an earlier investigation of loops of various shapes conducted by one of his classmates as a thesis under Yagi’s direc­tion. Subsequently, Uda substituted metal rods for parasitic loops and found that the field intensity in a preferred direction increased with the number of parasitic rods. He then undertook a systematic investigation to determine the effect on antenna directivity of changes in Continue reading

MAY 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. 4, April 1997.

 George W. Pierce:  Radio Pioneer and Educator

    George W. Pierce, one of the founding fathers of com¬munication engineering, was born 125 years ago this year. He served as president of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) in 1918 and 1919, the only person to serve a two-year term in the 50-year existence of the IRE. He received the IRE Medal of Honor in 1929 in recognition of his contributions to the theory and applications of crys¬tal detectors, piezoelectric crystals, and magnetostriction devices. The award citation also mentioned his role as a leading educator and author of books in the electrical field. 

                                    img025.jpg                    img024.jpg       
    Pierce was bom in Webberville, TX. He studied under Alexander Macfarlane (known for his contributions to the theory of alternating currents) at the University of Texas, where he graduated in physics. In 1900, Pierce earned a doctorate from Harvard University for his dissertation on high-frequency electromagnetic waves. He then studied for about a year at the Boltzman Laboratory in Leipzig, Germany, before returning to Harvard where he spent the rest of his professional career.
    In one of his first researches, Pierce used a high-frequency Continue reading

APRIL 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. 3, March 1997.

Lee de Forest and the Amplifying Audion

      Seventy-five years ago this month, the INSTITUTE OF RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) awarded its Medal of Honor to Lee de Forest as recognition for his invention of the three-electrode amplifier and his other contributions to radio. In 1946 he received the Edison Medal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) and the citation mentioned the profound technical and social consequences of the grid-controlled vacuum tube which he had intro¬duced. img018.jpgKnown for having a rather flamboyant personality, de Forest (shown in Fig. 1) was both an entrepreneur and a prolific inventor who received more than 300 patents.
     De Forest was born in Council Bluffs, IA, in 1873, the son of a Congregational minister. In 1879, the family moved to Talladega, AL, where his father served as president of Talladega College. After attending a college preparatory school in Massachusetts for two years, de Forest enrolled at the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University in 1893, where he graduated in 1896. He went on to earn a doctoral degree from Yale in 1899 with a dissertation on standing waves produced by Hertzian waves on an open-ended transmission line. His first employment after college was in the Dynamo Department of the Western Electric Company in Chicago. He experimented with wireless communication in his spare time and developed a device he called a responder as an alternative to the coherer as a detector of wireless waves. He left Western Electric in 1901 and worked as an editor for the Western Electrician and as a part-time Continue reading