Radiation Laboratory

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The Radiation Laboratory, commonly called the Rad Lab, was located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts and functioned from October 1940 until December 31, 1945. Alfred Lee Loomis, a millionaire and physicist who headed his own private laboratory, selected the location for the laboratory on the campus, named it the MIT Radiation Laboratory, and arranged funding for the Rad Lab until federal money was allocated. It was formed by, and initially operated under, the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), a commission established by U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt with Vannevar Bush as its chairman. In 1941, the NDRC was enlarged to become the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), with Bush remaining as chairman. Lee A. DuBridge served as the Rad Lab director. This facility was responsible for developing most of the microwave radars used by the United States during World War II.[1]

The Rad Lab also developed LORAN, the first worldwide radio navigation system, which originally was known as "LRN" for Loomis Radio Navigation, after Alfred Lee Loomis, who invented LORAN and played a crucial role in military research and development during WWII. It remained the most widely used long-range navigation system until the advent of GPS, which was developed from it and became used by the public after 2000.



During the mid- and late-1930s, radio systems for the detection and location of distant targets had been developed under great secrecy in the United States and Great Britain. These usually operated at Very High Frequency (VHF) wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum and carried several cover names, such as Ranging and Direction Finding (RDF) in Great Britain. There were similar developments in several other nations, notably Germany, the USSR, and Japan. In 1941, the U. S. Navy coined the acronym RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging) for such systems; this soon led to the name radar and spread to other countries.

The potential advantages of operating such systems in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF or microwave) region were well known and vigorously pursued. One of these advantages was smaller antennas, a critical need for detection systems on aircraft. The primary technical barrier to developing UHF systems was the lack of a usable source for generating high-power microwaves. In February 1940, researchers John Randall and Harry Boot at Birmingham University in Great Britain built a resonant cavity magnetron to fill this need; it quickly was placed in the highest level of secrecy.

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