Browder J. Thompson (1903-44) was one of the brilliant technical staff members transferred to RCA from General Electric Company in the anti-trust settlement of 1932. He directed RCA’s electron tube research section at the RCA Radiotron factory in Harrison, New Jersey, until he transferred to the new RCA Laboratories in Princeton in 1942. There is no explanation for these journal entries, which were found in one of three of his lab notebooks, P-1906, now preserved by the David Sarnoff Library.
This diary provides a unique perspective on the development of electron tube technology as applied to television and microwave frequencies in the mid-1930s. Thompson encounters numerous RCA engineers, physicists, and other staff members including Vladimir Zworykin, as well as Edwin A. Armstrong and other leaders in high-frequency electronics across the field. Terence Shrader is the inventor of perhaps the most valuable patent RCA owned, for the “Loctal” base for electron tubes (U.S. patent no. 2,080,837), which was applied for on April 2, 1935. The Mr. Shockley he interviews may well be the man who went on to Bell Telephone Laboratories and acclaim as the co-inventor of the transistor. Thompson briefly refers to semiconductors, which were the subject of research curiousity in this period. Thompson also meets with patent attorneys and offers his opinion on the merits of a Philo Farnsworth patent on an electron multiplier, which helps show how complicated the definition of an invention can be.
Thompson was considered a rising star among RCA’s technical managers and the leading candidate to succeed Elmer Engstrom as director of RCA Laboratories in Princeton. He died in Italy in July 1944 when German anti-aircraft fire shot down the plane in which he was observing the practical difficulties of an air-to-ground radar. Until 1997 the IEEE awarded annually the Browder J. Thompson Memorial Prize for an outstanding paper by an author or authors under 30 years of age in an IEEE publication.
Minor typographical errors have been corrected and first names or initials added where known. Page numbers are those from the lab notebook and refer to the top of the page indicated.
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