Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor, Father of Naval Radar

Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor,
Father of Naval Radar

From Dunlap’s 100 greatest men in radio   Pages 194-196
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Albert Hoyt Taylor
The Navy’s Radar Pioneer
Born: January 1, 1879  Chicago, Ill.

Albert Hoyt Taylor, radio engineer, investigator of ethereal phenomena and pioneer in radar, was graduated in 1899 from Northwestern University with a B.S. degree.  He opened his career as a teacher and was appointed instructor of physics and electrical engineering at Michigan State College, 1900-03; then instructor at the University of Wisconsin, 1903-05; assistant professor, 1905-08.  From the Imperial University at Goettingen, Germany, he obtained a Ph. D. in 1909, and served as professor of physics at the University of North Dakota, 1909-17.
     Taylor was a pioneer in the study and development of short waves and concentrated on that phase of radio when he joined the government service in November, 1917, commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Navel Reserve.  In 1918, he became a lieutenant commander; in 1919, commander.  As superintendent of the Radio Division of the United States Naval Research Laboratory, Anacostia, D.C., he studied polarization of electric waves, ‘round-the-earth echoes or multiple signals and the structure of the upper atmosphere.  As the result of his experiments in 1925, the “radio deflecting roof” revealed two waves – one “horizontal” traveling the earth’s surface, the other revounding from the sky.  The “radio roof” or Heaviside theory was further confirmed.
     Taylor, regarded as one of the government’s most skilled experts in radio research and engineering, was awarded the Liebmann Memorial Prize by the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1927 for his short-wave work and application of piezo crystals in transmitting circuits.  He also designed special radio equipment for aircraft.  World War II found him engaged in important radio research at Anacostia, with all his experience of the First World War and of the intervening years to enhance the value of his work.
     Serving as president of the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1929,  he once remarked, “I might be classed as 25 per cent physicist, 25 per cent inventor, 25 per cent naval officer and 25 per cent radio engineer.”
     Taylor’s important work in the study of radio echoes and the structure of the upper atmosphere contributed greatly to the development of radar – radio detecting and ranging.
     Tracing the United States Navy’s early development of radar, the Navy Department on May 23, 1943, called attention to the fact that on mid-September of 1922 Taylor and Leo C. Young, working in the Naval Aircraft Laboratory, Anacosta, observed that certain radio signals were reflected from steel buildings and metal ships.  They also noticed that ships passing by a transmitter and receiver attuned to certain frequencies produced a definite interference pattern.
     Between 1925 and 1930 the reflection phenomenon was used to measure the height of the Kennelly-Heaviside layer.  Taylor and Young performed this work in conjunction with Dr. Gregory Breit and Dr. Merle A. Tuve, of the Carnegie Institute.  Their associates during this period included Louis A. Gebhard, M.H. Schrenck,  L. A. Hyland and later Robert M. Page and Robert C. Guthrie.
     A report prepared by Taylor on “radio-echo signals from moving objects” was submitted on November 5, 1930, to the chief of the Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department.  As a result, on January 19, 1931, the Bureau assigned the Naval Research Laboratory the problem of investigating the use of radio to detect the presence of enemy vessels and aircraft.  Special emphasis was placed on the confidential nature of the problem.
     Many conferences with Army and Navy officers were accompanied by demonstrations during the ensuing years.  The importance of having radar tested with the fleet was realized as a result of studies made during the tactical maneuvers of the fleet in the Pacific during the autumn of 1936.  As a further step, the Naval Research Laboratory on February 17, 1937, conducted a demonstration for naval officers of radar detection of aircraft.  Also in 1937 the first radar equipment was taken to sea.  The next year was spent in designing and building a practical shipboard model which was installed on the U.S.S. New York late in 1938.
     The radio echoes which A. Hoyt Taylor heard coming back to earth from outer space were echoes that challenged scientists to make use of them.  Once that was done, radar added a new dimension to the science of radio.
     As Chairman of the Medal for Merit Board, Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, presented the Medal of Merit, awarded to civilians for outstanding services in the war, to Taylor with this citation:  (March 28, 1944)

     For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in the line of his profession as member of the staff of the Naval Research Laboratory.  Undiscouraged by frequent handicaps, Dr. Taylor labored tirelessly in the course of intensive research and experimentation which eventually resulted in the discovery and development of radar.  His foresight, technical skill and steadfast perserverance contributed in large measure to the timely introduction of a scientific device which has yielded the United States Navy a definite advantage over her enemies during the present war.

Web Editor's Note: A. Hoyt Taylor was the Navy's Trans-Atlantic Communications Officer stationed at Marconi's Belmar High-Powered Station during WWI.
Selected chapters of his book: RADIO REMINISCENCES: A HALF CENTURY   can be seen by clicking here that tell of his time in Wall N.J.

A few years after Dr. Taylor and the team he assembled left the Belmar station and formed the Naval Radio Laboratory the team would develop Navy Radar.
At the end of WWII Dr. Taylor would be recognized as the father of Naval radar.  For detail see the 1945 disclosure of the radar secret published by the Daily News

Page updated December 31, 2003, Page created October 29, 2000
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