compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
In June of 1940, Vannevar Bush, the Scientific Advisor to President Franklin
Roosevelt, along with Karl Compton, President of MIT, and James Conant,
President of Harvard, presented to President Roosevelt a plan for a National
Defense Research Council to oversee scientific research directed toward the
impending war effort, an idea that Roosevelt quickly approved. Compton
headed up the section of the Council overseeing technologies for detection
of aircraft and ships, capabilities that were sorely lacking at the time.
The name Radiation Laboratory, or "Rad Lab," was chosen to be
intentionally deceptive, creating the perception to those on the outside
that the laboratory was working on nuclear physics, a discipline that was
seen as too immature to have an impact on the war effort. During the fall
of 1940, the Rad Lab sprang to life on the MIT campus, and by December,
a primitive two-parabola system had already been emplaced and was
undergoing initial testing on the rooftop of Building 6 at MIT.
John Randall and Harry Boot had invented the cavity magnetron
almost by accident. It was a valve that could spit out pulses of
microwave radio energy on a wavelength of 10cm. This was
unheard of. Nothing like it had been invented before.
The wavelength for the radar system we were using at the start
of the war was one-and-a-half metres. The equipment needed
was bulky and the signals indistinct. The cavity magnetron was
to [BE] THE KEY that would allow us to develop airborne radar.
During the next five years, the MIT Radiation Laboratory made stunning
contributions to the development of microwave radar technology in support
of the war effort. Inventions included airborne bombing radars, shipboard
search radars, harbor and coastal defense radars, gun-laying radars,
ground-controlled glide path approach radars for aircraft blind landing,
interrogate-friend-or-foe beacon systems, and the long-range navigation
(LORAN) system. Some of the most critical contributions of the Radiation
Laboratory were the microwave early-warning (MEW) radars, which
effectively nullified the V-1 threat to London, and air-to-surface vessel
(ASV) radars, which turned the tide on the U-boat threat to Allied shipping.
In November 1942, U-boats claimed 117 Allied ships. Less than a year
later, in the two-month period of September to October 1943, only
9 Allied ships were sunk, while a total of 25 U-boats were destroyed by
aircraft equipped with ASV radars (Buderi, pp. 155–169).
In the words of Karl Compton, the Rad Lab was "the greatest cooperative
research establishment in the history of the world" (Saad, p.47). [IT] IS
frequently said that, although the atomic bomb ended World War II,
[IT] was radar that won the war.
Add a Comment