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Ernst F. W. Alexanderson

AKA Ernst Frederik Werner Alexanderson

Born: 25-Jan-1878
Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden
Died: 14-May-1975
Location of death: Schenectady, NY
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Vale Cemetery, Schenectady, NY

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Developed radio and television at GE and RCA

Pioneering electrical engineer Ernst F. W. Alexanderson is not as well known as Guglielmo Marconi or Thomas Edison, probably because Alexanderson toiled in a corporate environment, working for GE and its subsidiary, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), so virtually all of his patents were owned by his employers. His accomplishments, though, were of historic stature. He built the first high-frequency alternator (the machine that converts direct current into alternating current) that could produce continuous radio waves. It was Alexanderson's machine, the Alexanderson alternator, that enabled the first broadcast of voice and music by radio on Christmas Eve 1906 -- it amazed wireless operators at sea, who until that time had only been able to receive and transcribe dots and dashes.

Alexanderson was deeply involved in the development of television from the early 1920s. He built an experimental system intended for sending pictures of text, which received the first trans-Atlantic facsimile on its three-inch screen in 1924. In 1927 America's first television broadcast was received only on Alexanderson's experimental receiver. In 1930 he constructed a seven-foot television screen he hoped would be used in movie theaters. In the early 1950s he came out of retirement to take charge of RCA's development of color television. His color TV system became the industry standard.

Among Alexanderson's more than 300 patents were important advances in broadcast tuning and amplification systems, multiple-tuned radio antenna, anti-static receivers, sound for motion pictures, portable sound recorders, ship propulsion, power transmission, electronic modulation, electric railroads, and computers. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1983.

Father: Aron M. Alexanderson (teacher-judge)
Mother: Amelie von Heidenstam Alexanderson
Wife: Thyra Alexanderson (third wife)

    High School: Lund High School, Lund, Sweden (1896)
    University: University of Lund (attended 1896-97)
    University: Certificate in Electrical Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
    Scholar: University of Berlin

    RCA (1952-75)
    RCA (1919-24)
    General Electric (1902-58)
    Institute of Radio Engineers President
    IEEE Edison Medal 1944
    National Inventors Hall of Fame 1983
    Naturalized US Citizen
    Swedish Ancestry

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