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 Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.)

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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 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

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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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.

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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.

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