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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A. Frederick Collins - Radio Pioneer from my Hometown

I've been reading "Empire of the Air" by Tom Lewis, and I've been struck by how much radio history took place in the Hudson Valley. I have a special interest in this, because I grew up there. As I was reading about Lee de Forest (BOOO! HISS!) I started wondering if the lake near my parents' house was named for him. I grew up near Lake de Forest. Surprisingly, Google and Wiki did not provide the answer (anybody know?), but in the course of my Googling, I discovered something that really surprised me: my little town was the summer home of radio pioneer Archie Frederick Collins (what a great name!). Collins was one of the pioneers of radio telephone, using arc transmitters to send his voice out over the airwaves. Some of the experiments took place right in dear old Congers, N.Y. Collins seems to have been a great guy -- in addition to his pioneering work in radio, he was prolific author, writing for the Knack victims of the day.

Here's a 1908 Scientific American article about his radio work:
http://earlyradiohistory.us/1908col.htm
Here's a good Wiki article on him:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archie_Frederick_Collins

One quote from the Wiki: He wrote scientific adventure series novels such as "Jack Heaton, Wireless Operator(1919)" which told of the training and adventures of a 15 year old wireless amateur. Many of his books, such as "The Boy Scientist," (1925) had lots of illustrations and few equations, with an emphasis on "hands-on" experimentation, at a level intended for high school students. After discussing the "Einstein Theory," Collins tells his readers how to build a spectroscope, a radio, and a x-ray machine for home experimentation. Collins encouraged his readers to use their home-built x-ray machine to examine their own bone structure with a fluoroscope.

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