Microwave Hall of Fame Part II

The field of microwave engineering contributed a lot to the efforts of both sides (all sides?) during World War II. Building on the work done earlier in the century, engineers developed microwaves theories and techniques for military and commercial applications that are still in use today. And they didn't have computers!

Go back to the first page of the Microwave Hall of Fame.

Go on to the third page of the Microwave Hall of Fame.

Go to our main microwave history page.

Shintaro Uda (July 1, 1896 to August 18, 1976) invents and patents a high-gain antenna in 1926, while attending Tohoku Imperial University, in Sendai, Japan. His faculty adviser is Hidetsugu Yagi (January 28, 1886 to January 19, 1976). The Yagi-Uda concept uses reflector and director elements to drive a "live" dipole. Yagi published an English translation describing the work in 1928, from that time on his name was associated with the invention of his pupil. The Japanese war machine largely ignored this outstanding antenna, which the Allies put to good use. Nominated to the Microwave Hall of Fame by Justin!

Albert Wallace Hull was born Connecticut in 1880. He earned a Ph.D. in physics at Yale, then worked at General Electric's research lab in Schenectady NY. He was a noted vacuum tube inventor. One of his tubes used magnetic control; it was called the magnetron. Hull's magnetron only operated at kHz frequencies, but it cranked out 15,000 watts of power and could be used as both an amplifier or an oscillator. By WW II, the magnetron became an important component of many radar systems. Today, all commercial microwave ovens use mass-produced magnetrons. Nominated by Ed Reilly, VP, Schenectady County Historical Society, and webmaster for the Edison Tech Center in Schenectady, NY, which has its own electrical engineering Hall of Fame, thanks, Ed!"

Microwave Hall of Fame Part IIHeinrich Georg Barkhausen (1881-1956) was a German Physicist with many interests. Dr. Barkhausen was also the world's first chair professor in the communications branch of electrical engineering, at the Technische Hochschule (technical academy) in Dresden (1911). Among his accomplishments, he was first to provide physical evidence of magnetic domains in materials, in an experiment that came to be known as the Barkhausen effect. Later work led to the Barkhausen Noise Analysis technique for inspecting stresses in materials. His contributions to microwave technology include theory of electron tubes, and development of a high-frequency oscillator (a near-microwave tube) with co-inventer Karl Kunz, which led to understanding of velocity modulation. He established the Barkhausen Stability Criterion which is used to predict when oscillations begin in feedback circuits. After the war he returned from West Germany to Dresden (East Germany) to aid in reconstruction of his Institute of High-Frequency Electron-Tube Technology, which had been fire-bombed. A move that must have taken no small amount of courage! Nominated to this Hall of Fame by Alex!

Although Philo Taylor Farnsworth worked for Philco, the origin of the name Philco predates his employment there. "Philco" is a portmaneau of "Philadelphia company".

The early years of radio and television form an illustration of the despicable use of lawyers by big companies attempting to crush the claims of independent inventors; the first example was Edwin Armstrong. Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906-1971) among other things may be regarded as the father of electronic television, which was contested by evil-empire RCA for many years. Although the display tube suitable for television had been demonstrated as early as 1897 as the cathode ray tube by Karl Braun, early attempts to create a system for capturing images using mechanical means were failures. Farnsworth received a patent in 1927 (when he was 21 years old, for an idea he conceived of as a freshman in high school) on an electronic image dissector tube, and went on to demonstrate it satisfactorily by 1928. Previously German inventors Max Dieckmann and Rudolf Hell had patented such a device but had not managed to make it work. RCA's David Sarnoff's legal battles against Farnsworth easily set the adoption of television back 10 years in the US, but in the end RCA licensed his patent for $1,000,000. There were limited transmissions of television images from Berlin's 1936 Olympic Games as well as at the 1939 World's Fair in New York from the RCA building (with speeches by Sarnoff and President Roosevelt). The BBC began regular broadcasts in 1936, but it was not until 1939 that true network television began in the United States by the National Broadcast Company (NBC). Early displays were more green-and-white than black-and-white. See how TV was broadcast in 1939 here.

Farnsworth received 165 patents on a wide variety of inventions, including radar and nuclear fusion. Although he was born in Utah, his early death was linked to abuse of alcohol. See him win a carton of Winstons for his appearance on I've Got Secret in 1957!

Nominated by Ernest, and Keith, almost simultaneously!

 Charles Édouard Guillaume (1861-1938, pronounced "gee-ohm" with a hard g, as in "get") was a Swiss physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1920 in for his work on the anomalies in nickel steel alloys. One of Guillame's discoveries (dating to 1896) is the low-expansion alloy Invar, which was named by shortening the word "invariant". Invar can be created to have a near-zero thermal expansion coefficient. Work on nickel-steel alloys proceeded rapidly after the invention of the transistor, in order to provide a package material that has low thermal expansion (to match semiconductor substrate materials) as well as the ability to provide an extraordinary glass hermetic seal for feedthrough pins (although this serendipitous discovery was not an outcome of Guillaume's research). Invar is used in space missions where wide temperature variations must not affect dimensions of key components, such as mounting hardware for telescope mirrors.

 Fort Monmouth

Starting in 1917, the U.S. Army Signal Corps established their Radio Laboratories at Fort Vail (later renamed Fort Monmouth) New Jersey. This facility pioneered research in communications and radar leading up to and throughout WWII. Renamed Signal Corps Laboratories in 1930, many notable engineers and scientists are associated with this organization. A few of the Fort's contributors:

  • Harold Zahl was instrumental in early radar designs, and invented the gas discharge duplexer among other accomplishments.
  • Edwin Armstrong and David Sarnoff both worked at the Belmar Marconi station which became part of the Fort in the 30's. Edwin Armstrong actually build his regenerative circuit there since it was part of the Signal Corps labs. 
  • In 1946, African American Walter McAfee proved that bouncing signals off the moon was possible for communication.
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were both scientists at Fort Monmouth who were accused of selling secrets at the height of the Cold War, which led to their double execution at Sing Sing Prison on June 19, 1953. It took five shocks to kill Ethel, smoke was rising from her head according to eye witnesses. Note to defense workers: OPSEC is not just a word, it is a way of life.
  • Here's a long list of accomplishments at Ft. Monmouth. Thanks to Matt for suggesting this! Sadly, Ft. Monmouth closed in September 2011, a victim of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

 In 1932, Sir Robert A. Watson-Watt came up the idea of RDF, Radio Direction Finding. He wrote a paper (with A.F. Wilkins) describing this new technique of Radio Detection and Ranging giving it the code name of "radar" in 1935. It was proved that the theory would work, but with a range of only eight miles using the state-of-the-art devices of the day. By the autumn of 1938 radar systems were in place along the south coast of Britain. Watson-Watt became scientific advisor to the British Air Ministry in 1940 and in 1941 went to the United States to set up radar systems there. He lived from 1892 to 1973.

In 1959 Watson-Watt published his autobiography, entitled "The Pulse of Radar". This 434 page tome is a treasure trove of information on the development of all types of radars and countermeasures during WWII. The 1954 story about the 62-year-old Father of Radar getting a $12.50 speeding ticket from a Canadian cop who doesn't know who he's giving the ticket to, much less how his "electronic speed-meter" works is solid gold! Watson-Watt wrote a poem about his speeding ticket experience, Microwaves101 keeps it here! Last time we checked there were five used copies of The Pulse on Amazon.

Also at Bell Telephone Labs in the 1930s, Dr. George Clark Southworth (1890-1972) discovered that radio waves could be transmitted efficiently through a hollow, water-filled copper pipe. He and his team at Bell found that electromagnetic energy traveling through an enclosed structure moved in distinct patterns that we all know and love called "modes", and that the optimum diameter for a waveguide pipe was slightly greater than one-half wave length. They also experimented successfully with square, rectangular and oval waveguides, and ultimately tested five inch diameter waveguide at length of 875 feet.

 At the same time, W. L. Barrow had been studying antennas and reflectors of various shapes, which led him to experiment with hollow tubes. His successful propagation of waves through a tube 18 inches in diameter was published in May 1936. Today, the most common shape for waveguides is rectangular, with dimensions about one half wavelength by one quarter wavelength at the center frequency.

 Johannes Jauman (sometimes spelled Jaumann) was born in 1903 in Bruenn (now Brno in the Czech Republic). A citizen of Germany From 1933 to 1945, he was professor theoretical electro-technology in Bruenn. During World War II Jaumann was involved in work on "black submarines" - to reduce the radar cross section of submarine snorkels and periscopes. At the same time countries were pouring money into radar research, his efforts helped Germany develop radar absorbing materials. The project's code word was "Schornsteinfeger", which translates as "chimney sweep", a reference to the use of carbon black in the material. The first applications for Jauman's RAM was in the periscopes of U-boats, as well as flag poles of surface ships. However, the larger efforts in the U.S.A. and England to develop microwave, radar and other technologies were more crucial in winning the war. (Danke, Peter B!)

  Russian "Rootless Cosmopolitan" Abram Fedorovich Ioffe was born in 1880. After studying in Germany at the Roentgen laboratory, in 1918 Ioffe founded the State Institute for Roentgenology and Radiology in St. Petersburg, one of the first research centers of Russia. In three years, the Physico-Technical Department of this Institute separated to become the Physico-Technical Institute, which today is simply called the Ioffe Institute.

Why is Ioffe in the Microwave Hall of Fame? The Ioffe Institute made a specialty out of studying the properties of semiconductors, way back in the 1930s, long before the transistor was invented. If you've ever searched the world wide web for, say, the DeBye temperature of gallium nitride, then you've probably stumbled onto the biggest treasure trove of semiconductor info on the planet. Thanks to Dr. Ioffe!

Ioffe ran his research institute until 1950, and died in 1960.

 A student of Ioffe's , Russian radio and television engineer Lev Sergeyevich Termen (Léon Theremin, 1896-1993) created the electronic musical instrument that bears his name in 1920. The Theremin is the only instrument that you don't touch when you play it! Check out this video of Theremin demonstrating his art, he was obviously a pretty good cello player as well.

Theremin was not a one trick pony, he was quite an RF engineer. He invented interlacing for video signals, and developed an ingenious electronic bug powered by 330 MHz RF illumination (like RFID) that went undetected for seven years in the American ambassador's house in Moscow.

Herren Schwarz und Rohde

In 1933, two Bavarian physicists, Dr. Lothar Rohde (1906 - 1985) and Dr. Hermann Schwarz (1908 - 1995) formed a company based on a frequency meter they developed together, six years before Hewlett and Packard launched their test equipment company in a garage in Silicon Valley. Based in Munich, the “Physikalisch-Technisches Entwicklungslabor" company soon prospered; during World War II, PTE earned the distinction of becoming a target of Allied bombing. Temporarily shut down after the war, the company soon did brisk business with the Occupation as an equipment depot, maintaining and repairing radio equipment for Uncle Sam. By the 1950s, the newly renamed Rohde and Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG. was back at the forefront of research and development, and were the pioneers of commercial FM radio in Europe, among other achievements. Today Rohde and Schwarz brings in over one billion Euros of business and employs over 7000 people world wide, and surely is a feared competitor if you are an Agilent employee.

Thanks to Brian, of the Philippines! And thanks to Ulrich Rohde for pointing out who's who in the photo!

  Ugo Tiberio was born in 1904, and was the father of Italian radar despite his young age. In spite of meager investments, by 1943 Italian naval radar Gufo (the owl) was on par with allied radar. Thanks to Moisi, who provided information on this little-known microwave hero.

The history of the italian radar begins in 1935 when Ugo Tiberio, a young Officer of the Italian Army, proposed to use a means of radio-location to fight by night. He was intrigued by the ideas made public 1922 by Guglielmo Marconi in which the basic concepts of the radar were defined. At just 31 years old, Tiberio did not receive much trust from high ranking commanders. But the Italian Navy was interested in his projects as they were convinced by his scientific calculations. The main results resembled exactly one of the first forms of what today is known as the radar equation. Tiberio was transferred to the Italian Navy at the R.I.E.C. (Regio Istituto Elettrotecnico e delle Comunicazioni) the Royal Institute for Electrotechnics and Communications that was located at the Naval Accademy in Livorno. His research was funded by the Navy with only 20,000 Lire per year (in those days $1010 US). Despite the meager funding he managed to create a team of skillful technicians and colleagues, building the first radar prototype in 1940 which was named telemetro (telemeter) EC-3 “GUFO”, ("gufo" is Italian for "owl"). The higher ranking officials approved the results but did not accept the immediate use of this device on their ships. They just threw naive jokes like "no one shoots by night" or "if the Germans used one like these they would tell us to do so". This did not stop Tiberio's research but the delay in using radar resulted in one of the most devastating losses for the Italian Navy at the battle of Cape Matapan in 1941. Read about the battle on Wikipedia; over 2300 Italian sailors perished, although more than 1000 rescued by the Allies.  In the aftermath the Navy decided that the GUFO RADAR would be of vital importance in avoiding such massive losses of personnel and naval units. However, only 12 radar sets were installed by the time the armistice was signed September 3, 1943. After the war, in 1948, Tiberio wrote in the Maritime Gazzette "The battle of Cape Matapan is an important example to the military, who should once and for all accept the fact that (being) against a device produced by science courage and skills can, sometimes, (provide) a useless result. They should understand that in these conditions they could lose their lives without ever being able to engage in combat."


In 1937, funded by $100 by Stanford University, Sigurd (top of photo) and Russell Varian demonstrated the first klystron tube, later used in American radar systems during WWII to locate and lay waste to the Luftwaffe. In 1949 they founded Varian Associates, one of the very first technology-based companies in what would soon become silicon valley. The photo was taken by famed fotog Ansel Adams, but it looks more like a promo for a 1950's sci-fi thriller. Lifelong environmentalists, variations of their klystron tube provide millimeter-wave power today.

The Varian brothers had considerable help in their enterprise from the start from Edward Leonard Ginzton, who was born in 1915 in the Ukraine and emigrated to the United States in 1929 after a war-torn childhood. Ginzton was an early researcher on the klystron tube, was also known for his work on megawatt sources for linear particle accelerators, gaining 50 patents. He hit his stride managing Varian Associates, helping define a management style that attracted top talent, that at the time was unique but is now the norm for high tech startups. Ginzton died in 1998. Thanks to Daniel for making sure ELG is not forgotten here!

Harold Alden Wheeler

Harold Alden Wheeler (1903-1996) is remembered today in microwave circles for the equations he developed for the characteristic impedance of microstrip (curiously, he disliked both terms, characteristic impedance and microstrip, and refused to use them). Wheeler had a remarkable career. While still at college in the early 1920s he worked part-time for the then National Bureau of Standards and developed equations for estimation of the inductance of solenoidal coils; these are still known today as Wheeler's equations. He is also know for the Incremental Inductance Rule which calculates loss due to skin depth on arbitrary transmission line geometries. The "Wheeler Cap Technique" is used in finding an antenna's efficiency, by allowing one to separate the radiation resistance from the loss resistance.

Wheeler was involved in the development of the Neutrodyne receiver and the first receiver with diode automatic volume control and linear detector. He then worked on FM and television development until WW2 when he designed IFF and radar systems.

After the war he founded Wheeler Laboratories, Inc. The company developed systems and antennas for missile tracking and guidance. In his later years Wheeler served his country as an expert consultant; he was one of some 40 members of the Defense Science Board, advising the Government on scientific matters relating to defense.

Wheeler obtained 180 US patents and many foreign ones in his 40-year career and received numerous awards and commendations. He appears in the Microwave Hall of Fame due to the efforts of Kerry from Down Under!

As of June 2010, he still doesn't have a page in Wikipedia, what's up with that?

By the end of the thirties, secret work was afoot in both the USA and the United Kingdom. At Bell Telephone's Radio Research Lab in New Jersey, Phillip Hagar Smith, born in Lexington Massachusetts, developed a circular chart form in 1939 that shows the entire universe of complex impedances in one convenient circle. Wait, that's not entirely correct, as pointed out thanks to Jim... the Smith Chart only shows one half of the entire universe of complex impedances. The negative impedances (with a negative real part; where gain lives) still reach out to infinity in all directions around the circle. The Smith chart remains in wide use today, and will be around long after we're all gone. Les Besser recalls that Philip Smith submitted an article on his development to the IRE, which was rejected. The picture of handsome Phil is courtesy of his wife Anita, and just might be the only picture of him you could find on the entire worldwide web! By the way, Anita's company, Analog Instruments of New Providence, NJ, still supplies the ubiquitous chart in paper form to the microwave industry.

Paul shared this story about following in the footsteps of Phil Smith. As a starting engineer he took over the desk and chair of Phillip Smith when Smith retired from Bell Labs in 1970. To welcome me, my colleagues decorated the desktop with a Plexiglas-covered, poster-sized Smith Chart which served as a humbling reminder that I was occupying a pretty special place.

William Doherty worked for Western Electric's Bell Laboratories in the development of high-power transmitters for transoceanic broadcasting when he invented the "Doherty Amplifier". His development of a method for greatly improving the efficiency of RF power amplifiers makes his name familiar in the RF industry today. Doherty was awarded the Morris Liebmann award by the Institute of Radio Engineers in May 1937 for his idea. He was still twenty nine years young! His invention was quickly brought to market by a devoted team of Western Electric engineers. By 1940 Western Electric had incorporated the Doherty concept in 35 commercial radio stations worldwide, at powers up to 50 kilowatts. This concept has been exploited many times by microwave designers in the last twenty years, including MMIC representations; the 2004 IEEE Microwave Symposium lists about 10 papers with "Doherty" in the title! We are still waiting for Bill's daughter to dig up a better picture of her famous Dad to replace the one on the right...

Update August 2016: thanks to alert reader Jeremiah, we have an improved picture of Bill Doherty. Here's the web site where we found it, it is worth a read.

1939 photo of kystron pioneers.

Standing, left to right are Sigurd Varian, David Webster and William Hansen. In front are Russell Varian and John Woodyard

John Robert Woodyard was born in West Virginia 1904. He began as many did in the early decades of the 20th century; he tinkered with radio, cars and electricity. He worked as a radio operator on cannery ships in the Alaska fishing industry. Later, he decided to formalise his education and studied at University of Washington. He went on to Stanford University for his Ph. D; his thesis was on the Doherty grid-modulated amplifier with Frederick Terman. The Terman-Woodyard amplifier (a relative of the Doherty amplifier) was the result.

Although several others carried the idea forward, it was John Woodyard who had the initial idea for "slabline" used in the HP 809 slotted line.

Up to and during WWII he worked with the Varian brothers as a key player in development of the klystron. After WWII his work was more in physics than in microwaves. He was a major contributor to the Berkeley Laboratory/Stanford Linear Accelerator. Woodyard died in 1981. Contributed by Kerry!

William Webster (Bill) Hansen (1909 - 1949)

Bill Hansen invented the electromagnetic resonant cavity which is the basis of several microwave devices (including the klystron).

He entered Stanford University at the age of 16; Russell Varian was also at Stanford and the two became lifelong friends.

Hansen joined the faculty at Stanford in 1934. In the late 1930s he worked with the Varian brothers, John Woodyard and others to develop the klystron. Of the origins of the klystron, Russell Varian said "among other ideas, Dr. Hansen proposed the use of a concentric line resonator for generating high voltages. Hansen and I discussed this possibility at considerable length and considered what form of concentric line would have the maximum efficiency."

In 1941 Hansen and his research group moved to the plant of the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Garden City, N.Y., contributing to developments on Doppler radar, aircraft blind-landing systems, electron acceleration and nuclear magnetic resonance. During World War II he worked in New York on defense applications of physics and electronics, including radar. Hansen was also a scientific consultant on the Manhattan Project during the World War II.

Bill Hansen died at age 39 from lung disease caused by beryllium from the devices with which he worked. Also contributed by Kerry!

Frederick Emmons Terman (1900 - 1982) Fred Terman had an early interest in the then-novel field of wireless; he built his own receivers and transmitters in his teenage years and later became a well-known radio amateur. He studied for his undergraduate degree in chemistry and master's degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University before finishing his Ph.D. at MIT in 1924. It was at MIT that he learned a "business" approach to education and engineering.

After MIT Terman joined the Stanford faculty and taught electrical engineering. He convinced the authorities that there was a future in radio and electronics and so began the many years of education and research that made Stanford a world leader in that field.

In 1932 Terman published the seminal textbook, Radio Engineering; it became a standard reference. In 1943 he published the Radio Engineer's Handbook which, like its predecessor, also became a standard. From 1942 to 1945, he directed 800 staff at the Harvard University Radio Research Laboratory in research and development of radar countermeasures. He returned to Stanford as Dean of Engineering after WWII and never left again; he was Provost & Vice-President on his retirement in 1965. Terman was a great leader and many of his students went on to play key roles in the development of Silicon Valley. Two such were Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; Terman was instrumental in helping them set up the famous Palo Alto garage. Another contribution by Kerry!

 At the Battle of Britain in 1940 the British were able to detect enemy aircraft at any time of day and in any weather conditions, proving the value of microwaves to the world. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) opened the Radiation Laboratory to research applications for radar early in the 1940s. But back in England, the British needed help.

 Two British scientists, Henry Albert Howard Boot (June 2011: we have his complete name thanks to his son!) and John T. Randall at the University of Birmingham had devised a valve (the Limey word for "tube") which could generate 1000 times the power of any other existing microwave generator at the time. They named it the "cavity magnetron" (see Albert Hull). The problem was that it took them a month to create a dozen of the complex units. Watson-Watt suggested they talk to MIT, and MIT in turn suggested that the British meet with a small company called Raytheon, which had been founded by an ex-MIT professor, Vannevar Bush.

According to the book The Creative Ordeal, by Otto J. Scott, "Vannevar" rhymes with "Beaver". Not so! We recently talked to Norman Krim, curator of Raytheon's historic archive, and he knew Mr. Bush personally, having been hired by Raytheon in 1935. Otto Scott was a contract writer, an outsider to Raytheon. The correct pronunciation is "VAN-uh-var". Happy 94rd birthday, Norm!

In 1942, Harald T. Friis, working in Bell Labs in Holmdel NJ, developed the theory of "noise figure" that allows engineers to calculate the signal-to-noise ratio at the output of a complex receiver chain, and thus has a powerful equation named after him. Harald was born in Naestved Denmark, in 1893. He graduated 1916 in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute (founded 1829 by H.C. Oersted, the discoverer of electromagnetics). In 1919 he received a fellowship which enabled him to come to the United States where he studied radio engineering at Columbia University. In 1920, Friis joined a research group headed by at the Western Electric Company and apparently got stuck in the U.S.A. He eventually became a U.S. citizen, which later did not prevent him from being awarded the Valdemar Poulsen Medal of the Danish Academy of Sciences. He held 31 U.S. patents submitted over five decades of research. In 1971 he published a book on his life titled "Seventy Five Years in an Exciting World". This gem not only contains some great history, but also strange glimpses of Harald's life, such as drinking near-beer instead of milk as a child, apprenticing as a blacksmith, being bitten by bedbugs in a New York hotel, and naming his favorite pipe tobacco.

Alfred Lee Loomis (1887-1975) is a rare example of a tycoon who cared more about science than money, and he was really good at promoting both. Indeed, Loomis lived his life about as close a person could to that of fictional Bruce Wayne. His interest in science was life-long, during WWI he studied and improved artillery shell velocity measurements. Loomis made a fortune during the boom days of the 1920s buying utilities. He took a cash position before the crash, later buying up depressed securities. His well-equipped private laboratory in Tuxedo Park New York became known for gathering of prominent scientists during the 1930s, and Loomis turned his attention to a wide variety of topics, including ultrasonics, electroencephalography, cyclotrons, atomic weapons and radar. His team built a radar that they fitted into a van and tracked planes at a local airport. This was before the US army even had a radar... Loomis personally invented the navigation system LORAN.

Can you spare $2M? Last we checked, Loomis' house in Tuxedo Park was for sale. It would make a great museum....

Microwave Hall of Fame Part II

Loomis was instrumental in founding the Radiation Lab. Whenever federal money was tight (which was often) Loomis never hesitated to kick in his own funds to carry on the research. Along with Bill Gates, Loomis is that one rich man in a million that proves that the camel can fit through the eye of a needle. Read Jennet Connant's bio on Loomis: Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II, our book page will point you to it.

If you are studying this era, you really need to be listening to Charlie Barnet's Pompton Turnpike.... fire it up!

Click on photo for high-res jpg! Photo courtesy of Raytheon historical archive.
Percy was a Marlboro Man!

One of Raytheon's engineers, Percy Spencer, took home one of the super-secret magnetrons, and figured out a new manufacturing process that cut manufacturing time to a mere fraction of what it was AND improved the power efficiency. Within a month, Raytheon was making thousands of magnetrons a day for the war effort. Throughout the war years, new efficient sources were rapidly developed for transmitting microwave radar pulses which by the end of the war had reached peak power levels as great as several million watts. One more story about Percy Spencer. Just after the war, Percy Spencer was still working with magnetrons when he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket melted when he walked in front of the magnetron. After a bunch of experiments, he found that popcorn popped! Eggs exploded! You guessed it, Percy Spencer had invented the microwave oven.

Rudolf Kompfner was born in 1909 in Austria, and originally trained as an architect but soon turned his interests to physics and electronics. He spent some time incarcerated in England early in WWII. You can't be too careful about Austrian architects! Soon he was released and drafted to help out in a secret tube research center at the University of Birmingham. In 1942 Kompfner invented the traveling wave tube, although his lab notebook shows he had the field lines sketched sketched incorrectly about the helix! He moved to the United States after the war and worked at Bell Labs with John Pierce on other exciting microwave stuff, earning more than 50 patents. Kompfner died in December 1977. Contributed by James, who works at NASA!

Dr. Nathan Marcuvitz (1913-2010, three degrees at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute) headed up the experimental group at the Rad Lab at MIT during WW II, and for decades after served as the industry's number one scholar on electromagnetics. It's about time we had a page on the Rad Lab. One of the areas that Marcuvitz developed from scratch was waveguide theory, he literally wrote the book on it. The Waveguide Handbook, first published in 1951, typically sells for at least $80 used, and belongs in every serious microwave engineer's library, it's volume 10 of the Rad Lab series. Waveguide theory is like Newtonian physics, once someone figured it all out, it is done for all time. Marcuvitz taught at Brooklyn Poly from 1957-1966; Brooklyn is where Bugs Bunny got his accent and at least one tree grows there. Wikipedia offers an excellent bio of Marcuvitz.

Nominated by Paul, who also provided an input on Phillip Smith.


 Hedwig Keisler Markey (1914 - 2000), a.k.a. glamorous Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, (not to be confused with Hedley Lamarr of Blazing Saddles fame), made a single but significant engineering contribution to today's microwave wireless networks. At her Austrian husband Fritz Mandl's armament company, she observed that radio-guided torpedoes were susceptible to jamming. Leaving Das Vaterland in order to avoid personal participation in the Holocaust, she later obtained a secret U.S. patent on the idea of frequency hopping, shared with artist George Antheil. Their scheme used a mechanical device similar to the guts of a player piano to modulate the RF signal. Stonewalled by the good-old-boys of the Pentagon, Ms. Keisler's invention was not put to use by the military until the mid 1950s, after the patent expired. However, her work is regarded as the basis for all spread-spectrum techniques, including those used in today's wireless networks. Nominated by Pete F. from MA!

Nathan Marchand was born in Canada in 1916, then attended the College of the City of New York (B.E.E. '37) and Columbia University (M.S. '41). In 1944, Nathan Marchand wrote an article on "Transmission Line CONVERSION TRANSFORMERS" in the trade journal Electronics introducing the world to what would become known as the Marchand balun.  Ask us if you want a copy... While working at Federal Telephone and Radio Corporation, Marchand claimed quite a few patents as primary inventor, including a High Frequency (mechanical) Switch (2,477,635), Phase Shifter Means (2,414,475), Radio Beacon (2,414,431)... and many more. Marchand taught at the Radio-Television Institute from its founding in 1938, and then worked for the Federal Telegraph Company. He eventually formed his own consulting company, Marchand Electronic, where he continued to work into the 1980s. Check out his patent list here. He also wrote seven articles that can be accessed in IEEE Xplore. 


Robert Henry Dicke (May 6, 1916 – March 4, 1997) was a physicist. Dicke was also a member of the Radiation Laboratory.

He invented the Dicke Radiometer, a type of radiometric receiver.

He was listed as one of the authors of Volume 8 of the Rad Lab series, Principles of Microwave Circuits, published in 1948.

More information to come on this Hall of Famer!

Want to meet more microwave superstars? Check out the next room in the Microwave Hall of Fame!

Want to nominate someone for the Microwave Hall of Fame, complain about broken links or suggest links to your favorite technology history website? Drop us a line!


Author : Unknown Editor