Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Letters of a Radio Engineer to his Son

There was once a book titled Letters of a Radio Engineer to his Son, written by John Mills and first published in 1922, published by Harcourt. You can download it free here, courtesy of the quality literary wonks at It was never printed again commercially, though modern public-domain trawlers do still reprint the book today. It's not a legitimate father-son book. Instead its more of a radio hobbyist instructional written from that point of view. Nonetheless it's rare as hell so we're lucky to find even the digital copy.

Born in 1880, John Mills worked in the Engineering Department of Western Electric and also authored three other science texts Radio-Communication Theory and Methods, Electronics Today and Tomorrow, The Realities of Modern Science, Through Electrical Eyes and their use in Communication, The Engineer in Society, Industrial Research and its Opportunities, and Within the Atom. Actually there probably are more, but it's a common name, those are just the ones I am certain of. Mills generated a large number of patents for Western Electric including some early two-way transmission technology. He was a member of the IEEE, and a long time radio man. How long?  He was on hand in 1915 in Arlington when the first Naval order was sent by Wireless. [Source] In his writings he  proves to be shockingly progressive, a man of science and not politics. I'll quote from The Realities of Modern Science.
"The illustration in question indicates well the manner by which science grows, that is, by accretions or contributions. These have been made in the history of science by many men whose names have long been forgotten or, as in the case of some of the earliest discoverers, by men who probably had no names at all. Such contributions have been made by men of all races and nationalities. In the case of radio-telegraphy it is to be recalled that Maxwell was a Scot, Hertz a German, and Marconi an Italian."
He was originally from the south side of Chicago, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 190. He earned his Master's Degree in Physics from the University of Nebraska in 1904. Mills became a teacher and lectured students at Case Western, and Colorado College. While at Bell he designed the Bell Telephone exhibits at the world's fairs in Chicago, San Diego, Dallas, San Francisco and New York. By about 1925 he was working as the Director of Publications at Bell Telephone Laboratories. He worked in that position for another 20 years before retiring. He became a student counselor at the California Institute of Technology until his death in 1948.