Harvard Radio Lab
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Winfield Salisbury Remembers Frederick E. Terman
From SMEC Vintage Electrics Vol. #3, Issue #1 1991 ( Now SMECC )



I first became aware of Dr. Terman when I bought a copy of his first edition of Radio Engineering on August 6, 1935. I know the date because it is written on the fly-leaf of the book along with my home address at that time. I bought the book as a guide, because Mr. "Bud" Toles hired me to design and construct a commercial broadcast transmitter. The transmitter was rated at 250 watts for daytime use and could be reduced to 50 watts for night-time broadcast.

This construction job was notable because in the depth of the depression I bought only vacuum tube sockets, laminations, and wire, and some galvanized iron chassis parts. Also, I produced the complete audio system including a capacitance microphone (my own lathe work) and the modulation choke and audio transformers.

The equipment was a success in part because of the guidance of Dr. Termanís text. This apparatus had to pass a thorough inspection by the local "Radio inspector," and was given high praise, especially for the microphone and audio equipment.

This transmitter was installed at Roseburg, Oregon and was operated there for many years by Mr. Toles.

So, when it became my privilege to meet Dr. Terman in person at the start of the "Harvard Radio Research Laboratory," I was familiar with, and strongly impressed by his engineering ability and his work.

Dr. Terman had a very special ability with his students and associates to inspire their self confidence and their best efforts. Many very successful commercial enterprises resulted from his encouragement of his engineering students.

When Professor Terman agreed to head a laboratory to concentrate on a war-time effort in radio-radar and electronic countermeasures, the MIT. Radiation Laboratory had more than two years of successful development already and had absorbed most of the young physicists in the U.S.A.

Dr. Terman was chosen for this job by Vannevar Bush in the O.S.R.D because of his fine reputation as an engineer and teacher and because it was felt that he best represented the 'Radio Engineers' of the country and could draw on their ranks in a way very similar to the performance of Dr. Lee Du Bridge and MIT, in gathering in the young physicists for war-time research and engineering development.

When Dr. Terman agreed to take the job of organizing a new war-time laboratory, he made one stipulation. He stated that he felt he could recruit an effective staff of Radio Engineers, but he felt that the new developments of microwaves (20 cm. to 1 cm.) at MIT would be unknown to radio engineers, and he asked for one able helper from the MIT staff to assist in filling this gap in radio engineering knowledge. He was told to pick someone and his request would be favorably considered. On the advise of his friend at Stanford University, Bill Hansen, he asked for me. At the time I was head of a large division for the MIT Lab known as the 'Radio Frequency' group, and had made a number of inventions that contributed to the success of microwave radar. Du Bridge seemed startled at this request but after talking with me, told Dr. Terman I could join his new lab if Terman could persuade me.

After some discussion with Dr. Terman, which led me to believe that I would find him supportive of new ideas and approaches which I felt would be required in this new field, I agreed to make the change. I became part of Termanís staff and was put in charge of four divisions of the lab, Namely, 'high-powered jammers,' 'Microwave Search Receivers,' 'Microwave jammers,' and 'Interference Methods.'

Dr. Terman had a well-known Broadcast Engineer as an advisor, but I found he would listen to my more unorthodox approach to problems and was willing to make his own judgements. In fact, I was most impressed by his willingness to go into detail on any project and abide by his own judgement of the possibilities. I enjoyed working with him, especially because he would listen to unusual ideas and possibilities and then allow things to proceed as his careful judgement dictated, without being dismayed by all the negative comments that any new idea arouses in the average engineer.

Years later, when I was designing resonant systems for a Cyclotron atom smashers, Terman's Universal resonant curves and phase curves were extremely useful. His books helped in the design of anti-parasitic traps and high Q resonant systems. My Cyclotron design had a Q of 16,000, and much later, a Linear Accelerator was designed under my direction with a Q of 250,000.

 

 

 

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