Pierce, George Washington

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b. 11 January 1872 Austin, Texas, USA
d. 25 August 1956 Franklin, New Hampshire, USA
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American physicist who made various contributions to electronics, particularly crystal oscillators.
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Pierce entered the University of Texas in 1890, gaining his BSc in physics in 1893 and his MSc in 1894. After teaching and doing various odd jobs, in 1897 he obtained a scholarship to Harvard, obtaining his PhD three years later. Following a period at the University of Leipzig, he returned to the USA in 1903 to join the teaching staff at Harvard, where he soon established new courses and began to gain a reputation as a pioneer in electronics, including the study of crystal rectifiers and publication of a textbook on wireless telegraphy. In 1912, with Kennelly, he conceived the idea of motional impedance. The same year he was made first Director of Harvard's Cruft High- Tension Electrical Laboratory, a post he held until his retirement. In 1917 he was appointed Professor of Physics, and for the remainder of the First World War he was also involved in work on submarine detection at the US Naval Base in New London. In 1921 he was appointed Rumford Professor of Physics and became interested in the work of Walter Cady on crystal-controlled circuits. As a result of this he patented the Pierce crystal oscillator in 1924. Having discovered the magnetostriction property of nickel and nichrome, in 1928 he also invented the magnetostriction oscillator. The mercury-vapour discharge lamp is also said to have been his idea. He became Gordon McKay Professor of Physics and Communications in 1935 and retired from Harvard in 1940, but he remained active for the rest of his life with the study of sound generation by birds and insects.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
President, Institute of Radio Engineers 1918–19. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honour 1929.
Bibliography
1910, Principles of Wireless Telegraphy.
1914, US patent no. 1,450,749 (a mercury vapour tube control circuit). 1919, Electrical Oscillations and Electric Waves.
1922, "The piezo-electric Resonator", Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers 10:83.
Further Reading
F.E.Terman, 1943, Radio Engineers'Handbook, New York: McGraw-Hill (for details of piezo-electric crystal oscillator circuits).
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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