Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Elusive John Stone

Stone is yet another obscure but important man in early radio engineering. He made many contributions to the fields of telephony and radio telegraphy while working at the original Ma'Bell. Originally trained as a physicist, he found employment as a telephone engineer after graduation from Johns Hopkins University. Like many others of that time the arena of wireless was the next obvious step. More here.

He holds several critical patents, (120 in all) one relatively simple one in 1902 for a system of loosely coupled, tuned circuits for radio transmission and reception. Quite critically it was established by the U.S. Supreme court that his held priority over Marconi's similar system. This prevented millions of dollars of royalty money inside US corporations and away from WWI fascist Italy. Politically motivated? ...perhaps.

Stone's arrangement featured a four circuit wireless telegraph apparatus very similar to Marconi's. Marconi,had acquired a patent in the UK (#7777) but had not yet acquired one in America opening the political window on this possibility. More here.

Though the patent was was one after his death, Stone would have definitely approved. he was a member of the American Defense Society; a decidedly pro-war, pro-military intervention group. They advocated war on Germany, the expulsion of American socialists, war on the Bolsheviks and was even pretty critical of the President Wilson. This quiet genius was kind of a political extremist behind closed doors. He was the author both pro-war propaganda and more relevantly several important technical papers, including "The Practical Aspects of the Propagation of High Frequency Waves Along Wires," for which he was awarded the Franklin Institute Edward Longstreth Medal in 1913. Stone's methods had revolutionized spark telegraphy and he was one of the lucky ones that received credit in his own lifetime.

He also is a possible contender for first radio broadcaster. John Stone claimed that, using a a modified arc-lamp generator, he transmitted speech by electro-magnetic waves as early as 1900. Quite impressive if it was true.

...and though he does not hold the patent on it, in 1912 Stone assisted De Forest in the final development of his Audion tube. the single device that made speech over radio even remotely practical. Three years later he wrote one of his better circulated papers, a treatise on Nikola Tesla's priority in radio.