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Adams, Comfort Avery (01 November 1868–21 February 1958), engineering professor and consulting engineer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Comfort Avery Adams and Katherine Emily Peticolas. Although the family experienced stringent financial circumstances during Adams’s youth, he entered Case Institute of Applied Science (now part of Case Western Reserve University) after attending public schools in Cleveland. At Case he was laboratory assistant to a young physicist, ...

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Alexanderson, Ernst Fredrik Werner (25 January 1878–14 May 1975), engineer and radio and television pioneer, was born in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of Aron Martin Alexanderson, a professor, and Amelie von Heidenstam. From an early age Alexanderson showed interest in things scientific, and so he was sent to the Royal Institute of Technology at Stockholm, where he studied engineering, graduating in 1900. The Royal Institute had no specific program in electrical engineering, which was Alexanderson’s major interest, and so he spent the following year at the Königliche Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, then one of the best engineering schools of Europe. Here for the first time Alexanderson became acquainted with contemporary work in electromagnetics and wireless communication....

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Armstrong, Edwin Howard (18 December 1890–31 January 1954), electrical engineer and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of John Armstrong, a publisher, and Emily Smith, a teacher. Armstrong attended public schools in New York City and in Yonkers, New York, where the family moved in 1900. Fascinated by machinery, he enjoyed repairing broken toys for friends and later learned to repair automobiles. In his teens he was impressed by ...

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Berkner, Lloyd Viel (01 February 1905–04 June 1967), engineer, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Henry Frank Berkner and Alma Julia Viel. Berkner and his two brothers were raised in the small towns of Perth, North Dakota, and Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Berkner enrolled in a radio operator’s school and served aboard ship for one year after completing his high school studies. He then entered the University of Minnesota as an electrical engineering student, receiving a B.S. in 1927 as well as a commission as an aviator in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He later took some graduate courses in physics at Minnesota and at George Washington University but earned no graduate degree. In 1928 he married Lillian Frances Fulks; they had two children....

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Bush, Vannevar (11 March 1890–28 June 1974), science administrator and engineer, was born in Everett, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Perry Bush, a Universalist minister, and Emma Linwood Paine. Bush grew up in modest circumstances in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and attended Tufts University, graduating in 1913 with a B.S. and an M.S. At Tufts he first encountered electrical engineering and an ideology of engineering; he also developed there his lifelong interests in invention and the patent system. With the idea of improving his career prospects, Bush first enrolled in 1915 in the graduate program in mathematical physics at Clark University but left shortly afterward. He then enrolled in a graduate doctoral engineering program jointly offered by MIT and Harvard and received a doctorate of engineering after one year of heroic efforts with a thesis on the oscillatory behavior of currents in power lines. The joint degree was rare; the doctorate was only the fifth awarded by MIT. Bush, who was a mathematics instructor at Tufts in 1914–1915, rejoined the Tufts faculty in the fall of 1916 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. At this time, he became a technical consultant to the Morgan-financed American Research and Development Corporation (AMRAD), which was seeking promising radio inventions. During World War I he invented an electromagnetic device for determining the location of submarines; frustrating experiences with the navy influenced his later views. In 1916 he married Phoebe Davis; they had two sons....

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Carty, John Joseph (14 April 1861–27 December 1932), electrical engineer and research administrator, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Carty, a machinist and metal founder, and Elizabeth O’Malley. Carty grew up in Cambridge, graduating from the Cambridge Latin School before a temporary vision impediment sidetracked plans for a college education. After working for a Boston philosophical apparatus (scientific instrument) maker, he began his career in the infant telephone industry in 1879 as an operator for the Boston Telephone Despatch Company. This company was a licensee of the New England Telephone Company, which was formed by the original Bell Telephone Company....

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Clarke, Edith (10 February 1883–29 October 1959), electrical engineer, was born near Ellicott City, Maryland, the daughter of John Ridgely Clarke, a lawyer and gentleman farmer, and Susan Dorsey Owings. Orphaned at age twelve, Clarke was raised by an older sister. In 1904 Clarke decided to use her inheritance to obtain an education and enrolled at Vassar College, where she studied mathematics and astronomy and received an A.B. in 1908....

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Cray, Seymour (28 September 1925–05 October 1996), electrical and computer engineer, was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the son of Seymour Cray, a civil engineer, and Lillian Cray. Influenced by his father, Cray became interested in technology at an early age, building a variety of electronic gadgets before he reached his teens. In high school he won the school's science prize for his work in chemistry. Immediately after graduation in 1943, Cray joined the army and went to Europe and the Philippines to operate radio communications equipment during World War II. A year after his discharge he returned to Chippewa Falls and in 1947 he married Verene Vole; they would have three children....

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Daft, Leo (13 November 1843–28 March 1922), electrical engineer, was born in Birmingham, England, the son of Thomas B. Daft, a civil engineer, and Emma Matilda Sturges. His father started a firm to design greenhouses and conservatories, but when Leo was young, his father became a consulting engineer in London to large construction and shipbuilding firms. Leo attended local schools and Liverpool Collegiate School. When he was fifteen he became a draftsman in his father’s office. He attended engineering lectures by William Pole at London University as a special student but did not seek a degree. Daft made drawings for Pole to use in his lectures. Through his father he became acquainted with electrical engineer Cromwell Fleetwood Varley, who advised him in electrical projects. Another of his father’s friends, William Siemans, lent him electrical equipment. Daft’s father provided laboratory space in the family home, where Daft carried out experiments with electricity, did other projects in physics, and delved into photography....

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Dunn, Gano Sillick (18 October 1870–10 April 1953), electrical engineer, was born in Yorkville, New York, the son of Nathaniel Gano Dunn, a lawyer, and Sarah Amelia Sillick. He matriculated at the College of the City of New York (CCNY) in 1885. After his father died the next year, he supported himself and paid for his education by working as a telegraph operator for the Western Union Telegraph Company. While still a student, he was offered a job as a research assistant by the eminent inventor ...

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Harold E. Edgerton Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103829).

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Edgerton, Harold Eugene (06 April 1903–04 January 1990), electrical engineer and photographer, was born in Fremont, Nebraska, the son of Frank E. Edgerton, a lawyer, and Mary Coe. Edgerton received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1925 and a doctorate of science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931. He married Esther May Garrett in 1928; they had three children. Most of Edgerton’s career centered on his invention, development, and application of the stroboscopic flash....

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Emmet, William Le Roy (10 July 1859–26 September 1941), electrical and mechanical engineer, was born on Travers Island, near New Rochelle, New York, the son of William Jenkins Emmet, a businessman, and Julia Colt Pierson. He spent much of his boyhood swimming, climbing trees, and hunting and fishing in nearby woods and swamps. Although he had keen powers of observation, his early scholastic achievements were not impressive. At fourteen, Emmet was sent with a younger brother to a boarding school in Lennoxville, Quebec. This was a miserable experience for young William, and his only comfort was the Anglican church service he attended every afternoon. Curiously, within a year or two, Emmet lost all interest in religion, and it held no place in his later life. In June 1875 he took the Naval Academy entrance examinations and failed badly. The following winter he enrolled at the Maryland Agricultural College to prepare for the Naval Academy, and in June 1876 he entered the Naval Academy after barely passing the examination. Emmet graduated in 1881, ranking fifty-fourth in a class of seventy-six, and was honorably discharged by the navy in 1883....

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Engelbart, Douglas Carl (30 Jan. 1925–2 July 2013), engineer and inventor, was born in Portland, Oregon, the middle son of Carl Louis Engelbart and Gladys Charlotte Amelia Munson Engelbart. His father, an electrical engineer, was born in Spokane, Washington, and was of German descent. His mother also born in the state of Washington, was of Swedish and Norwegian descent. A gifted student, Douglas Engelbart graduated from Franklin High School in Portland in ...

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Engstrom, Elmer William (25 August 1901–30 October 1984), electrical engineer, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Emil Engstrom, a power plant engineer, and Anna Nilssen. After public schooling, he graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1923. He began his career with General Electric (GE) in Schenectady, New York, in 1923, working on short-wave transmitters and then broadcast receivers. He married Phoebe Leander in 1926; they had one son. He transferred to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1930 when GE’s radio engineering and manufacturing work were taken over by RCA. At RCA’s facilities in Camden, New Jersey, Engstrom served as division engineer in charge of sound motion-picture devices and broadcast receivers. He became director of general research in 1942, when RCA research activities were concentrated in Princeton, New Jersey. He was promoted to director of research of RCA Laboratories in 1943 and administered a staff of 600 working on RCA’s military contracts on radio, acoustics, radar, and electronics. He was named vice president in charge of research of the RCA Laboratory Division in 1945, moving up to be in charge of the division in 1951. Throughout this period, as historian Margaret Graham notes, “He wanted to rebuild the inventory of scientific knowledge in electronics and recommended that corporate management devote a sizeable effort to this,” urging RCA to invest in fundamental and theoretical research and explore its commercial application. Yet Engstrom was somewhat hamstrung by RCA’s lower profits in the postwar years and by the end of much of its patent income, which had helped to finance fundamental research. He changed the budgeting basis of RCA Laboratories and tied research planning to RCA revenues. Requiring members of the Laboratory Division to budget on revenue was a significant change. As Graham notes, it was “the first time since the founding of the Laboratories that limits on the resources devoted to research were visible to the research staff.” In future years the RCA research effort was increasingly tied to development of viable products....

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Friis, Harald Trap (22 February 1893–15 June 1976), electrical engineer, was born in Naestved, Denmark, the son of a Danish brewer and a Norwegian mother. He studied at the Royal Technical College in Copenhagen, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1916. Then inducted into the Danish Signal Corps, he served as a radio laboratory assistant in Copenhagen in 1916–1917 and as technical director of the Royal Gun Factory in that city in 1917–1918. With the aid of a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, he came to the United States to study for a year at Columbia University in 1919 and decided to stay. He became a U.S. citizen six years later. He married Harriet Inger Lindhard in 1927; they had no children. He earned a D.Sc. in 1938 from his undergraduate institution....

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Ginsburg, Charles Paulson (27 July 1920–09 April 1992), inventor and electrical engineer, was born and raised in San Francisco, the son of a Russian Jewish father who was a physician specializing in radiology and an American-born mother. Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 1924, just two years after the discovery of insulin changed the disease from a fatal to a treatable condition, he was among the first to survive diabetes to advanced age through daily self-administered insulin injections. Ginsburg won admission to Lowell High School, a special public school for academically gifted students, graduating in 1937. That same year he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, intending to become a physician, but after two years of premedical studies his intellectual curiosity led him in other directions. In 1939 he transferred to the University of California, Davis, to study genetics and animal husbandry. But in 1940, lacking funds, he quit school and moved to San Jose, finding work as a sound technician, first for a recording company and then a broadcasting company. In 1942 he resumed his education as a part-time student at San Jose State College (now San Jose State University), pursuing a degree in engineering and mathematics. Excused from military service because of his insulin dependence, Ginsburg was in demand as a radio engineer during World War II....

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Hammer, William Joseph (26 February 1858–27 March 1934), electrical engineer and scientist, was born in Cressona, Pennsylvania, the son of William Alexander Hammer, a merchant, and Martha Ann Beck. He received his early education in the private and public schools of Newark, New Jersey. These formal studies were supplemented throughout his life by self-study and attendance of lectures at the University of Berlin and the Technische Hochshule....

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Heineman, Daniel Webster (23 November 1872–31 January 1962), engineer and corporate executive, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of James Heineman, a businessman engaged in the chewing tobacco trade, and Minna Hertz. After attending elementary school in his hometown, Heineman relocated with his mother to her native Germany following his father’s death in 1880. He became interested in the newly emerging field of electrical engineering and studied the subject upon entering the Technical College of Hannover. After graduating from the college in 1895, he went to work at Union-Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft in Berlin. The firm, which was associated with General Electric, soon had Heineman out in the field directing the conversion of city transit systems from horsepower to electricity. Over the course of the next ten years, he oversaw the conversion process in a number of cities, including Liège, Naples, Brussels, and Koblenz....

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Hewitt, Peter Cooper (05 March 1861–25 August 1921), inventor, mechanical and electrical engineer, and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of Abram Stevens Hewitt, an iron manufacturer, merchant, and politician, and Sarah Amelia Cooper. Hewitt attended Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken, New Jersey, and Columbia University School of Mines in New York City. The fortune amassed by his father and his maternal grandfather, Peter Cooper, enabled him to pursue his own interests. As a result, he devoted much of his adult life to scientific investigation and experimentation, for which he received numerous patents. An orderly and determined individual, his strict work regimen was to attend to business interests in the morning while his afternoons and evenings were devoted to experimentation and investigations in his laboratory, located in the tower of the old Madison Square Garden. This intense schedule continued for three-quarters of the year and was followed by three months totally devoid of work and devoted to relaxation, travel, and sports....