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First-Hand:Major Developments in Military Radar Technology

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Submitted by Julius Stratton

When MIT was asked in 1940 to establish the Radiation Laboratory as the center for radar research in the United States, Dr. Stratton joined the staff as a member of the Theory Group. He also worked on the development of LORAN (Long Range Navigation), which by the end of the war covered nearly a third of the globe with radio beams enabling airplanes and ships to determine their location.

In 1942, Dr. Stratton went to Washington as Expert Consultant to Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. When communications for ferrying planes across the North Atlantic proved unsatisfactory because of the proximity of the magnetic pole, he went to Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland to study the problem and subsequently recommended a very low-frequency system. In this post he served also as chairman of the committees to improve the effectiveness of all-weather flying systems and of ground radar, fire control, and radar bombing equipment. He visited Italy, North Africa and the United Kingdom to study radar bombing and to assist in planning the use of radar in the Normandy invasion. In 1946, he was awarded the Medal for Merit for his services.

The Radiation Laboratory impressively demonstrated the value of interdisciplinary research and, as the end of the war approached, Dr. Stratton and others sought a way in which its momentum and program methods could be sustained for peacetime research. This was effected through the establishment at MIT of a new Research Laboratory of Electronics, of which he became the first director. Its form of organization was so successful that it soon provided a pattern for interdisciplinary research in a variety of fields at the Institute. Its example was followed at other institutions as well.