Amateur radio operators (a.k.a. “hams”) have made immense contributions to the development of technology. Naturally, they are best known for inventions and technical refinements associated with radio electronics.
Foremost among pioneering hams was Edwin H. Armstrong, inventor of the regenerative receiver, the superheterodyne receiver, and frequency modulation (FM).
I recently discovered that amateur radio operators have also made momentous contributions to medical technology. The American physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi invented a way to measure nuclear magnetic moments. His work initiated a series of developments leading to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of soft tissues. Rabi commandeered an entire wall of his family’s living room for his homemade radio station.
Another ham contributing to medical technology was Wilson Greatbatch, inventor of the first implantable cardiac pacemaker. Greatbatch earned his amateur radio license, W8QBD, as a teenager and was introduced to medical electronics as an undergraduate at Cornell University, where he ran the university’s radio station. Greatbatch also developed and championed the use of lithium-iodide batteries in pacemakers.
I recently made a fascinating discovery. The history of technology is far more entertaining and inspiring than I was led to believe. Why didn’t anyone tell me that James Clerk Maxwell developed his theory predicting electromagnetic waves using an imaginary mechanical model consisting of whirling gears and idle wheels? And who knew that Heinrich Hertz discovered the photoelectric effect while performing the famous experiments in which he discovered electromagnetic waves?
It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. So I have decided to follow my passion and make the history of technology my career. However, I didn’t want to make it official until I had something tangible to offer. I’m pleased to inform you that my first book on the history of technology is scheduled for release by Telescope Books on February 5, 2008:
I think you’ll find the book unique. It covers everything from early experiments with electricity (the prehistory of wireless) to technologies just emerging from the laboratory (the future of wireless). There is a need for books that look forward as well as backward, because the history of technology is a drama in which the protagonists invent the future.
The history of technology is just getting started. And so am I.