Edwin Howard Armstrong

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Edwin Howard Armstrong (December 18, 1890 – January 31, 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor. Armstrong was the inventor of modern frequency modulation (FM) radio.

Edwin Howard Armstrong was born in New York City, New York, in 1890. He studied at Columbia University and later became a professor there. He invented the regenerative circuit while he was an undergraduate and patented it in 1914, the super-regenerative circuit (patented 1922), and the superheterodyne receiver (patented 1918).[2]


Early life

Armstrong was born in the Chelsea district of New York City to John and Emily Armstrong.[1] The family moved in 1902 to Yonkers. He showed an interest in electrical and mechanical devices, particularly trains, from an early age.[3]

He loved heights and constructed a makeshift radio antenna tower in his back yard. Swinging on a bosun's chair, he would hoist himself up and down the tower to the concern of his neighbors. A case of rheumatic fever as a child left him with a tic in one eye.

In late 1917, Armstrong was invited to join the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a captain and was sent to Paris to help set up a wireless communication system for the Army. He returned to the United States in the fall of 1919.[3]

During his service in two world wars, Armstrong gave the U.S. military free use of his patents. Use of these patents was critical to Allied victory during the wars.

Unlike many engineers, Armstrong was never a corporate employee. He performed research and development on his own and owned his patents outright. He did not subscribe to conventional wisdom and was quick to question the opinions of his professors and his peers.

Work and patent disputes

Howard Armstrong contributed the most to modern electronics technology. His discoveries revolutionized electronic communications. Regeneration, or amplification via positive feedback is still in use to this day. Also, Armstrong discovered that Lee De Forest's Audion would go into oscillation when feedback was increased. Thus, the Audion could not only detect and amplify radio signals, it could transmit them as well.

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