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 Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton

Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton

Birth
Fremont, Dodge County, Nebraska, USA
Death 4 Jan 1990 (aged 86)
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 1877 · View Source
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Legendary professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), affectionately known as “Doc,” best known for inventing the stroboscope, forerunner of the modern electronic flash, and as a founding partner of EG&G Inc. He was born Harold Eugene Edgerton on April 6, 1903, in Fremont, Nebraska (Dodge County), the eldest of three children of Mary Nettie (Coe) and Frank Eugene Edgerton. Over the next dozen years the Edgerton family moved a total of four times, finally settling in Aurora, Nebraska (Hamilton County). Young Harold had an early interest in mechanics and photography and set up a darkroom in his home. After working a summer at the Nebraska Power and Light Company, he developed an interest in electrical generation and in 1921 enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL), where he received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1925. After a brief stint at General Electric in Schenectady, NY, he entered graduate school at MIT in Cambridge, MA, where his studies focused on using a strobe lamp to study whirling electric motors. By controlling the frequency of strobe flashes synchronized with the spinning rotors, he was able to see and photograph the moving rotors clearly, as if they were standing still. Edgerton received his Master of Science in electrical engineering from MIT in 1927. In 1928 he married Esther May Garrett, also a Nebraska native. They had three children: Mary Louise (b. 1931), William Eugene (b.1933), and Robert Frank (b.1935). While still in graduate school he completed the development of the stroboscope for use in both ultra-high-speed and still (or stop-motion) photography. This discovery was formally announced in the May 1931 issue of “Electrical Engineering.” That same year he also formed a partnership with former student Kenneth J. Germeshausen, an MIT research affiliate, to commercially develop the stroboscope for various applications. He also received his Doctor of Science in electrical engineering from MIT and became a faculty member at the Institute for the rest of his life. In 1934, Herbert E. Grier, another former student of Edgerton's, joined the partnership of Edgerton and Germeshausen. They continued to develop ultra-high-speed photography, and unique stroboscopic effects. The partnership of Edgerton, Germeshausen and Grier grew rapidly, became diversified and was highly successful in defense contracting involving many branches of photography and electronics. They would eventually incorporate as EG&G Inc. in 1947. In 1948, MIT made Edgerton a full professor of electrical engineering. In 1953, he began his long association with French underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, accompanying him on numerous expeditions aboard the research vessel Calypso. They explored and photographed sea floors from the Mediterranean to Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains. On these expeditions, Edgerton also did pioneering research with side-scan sonar, an acoustic device now widely used to locate objects lying on the ocean floor. He was appointed Institute Professor at MIT in 1966, an honor awarded to distinguished faculty members upon nomination by their colleagues. In 1968, using his penetrating sonar, Edgerton located the Mary Rose, an English warship sunk during the reign of Henry VIII. In 1973, again using side-scan sonar, Edgerton and colleagues located the sunken Civil War battleship USS Monitor, lost since 1862, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. That same year, he also received the US National Medal of Science, awarded by President Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Edgerton ended his active participation in the management of EG&G Inc. in 1975, retiring to the honorary position of Chairman Emeritus. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1986 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, for the invention and application of the modern stroboscope to science, industry and the arts. On January 4, 1990 after paying for his lunch at the MIT Faculty Club, Harold E. Edgerton suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 86.

Bio by: Edward Parsons


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1877
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton (6 Apr 1903–4 Jan 1990), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1877, citing Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .