Marrison, Warren Alvin

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b. 21 May 1896 Inverary, Canada
d. 27 March 1980 Palo Verdes Estates, California, USA
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Canadian (naturalized American) electrical engineer, pioneer of the quartz clock.
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Marrison received his high-school education at Kingston Collegiate Institute, Ontario, and in 1914 he entered Queen's University in Kingston. He graduated in Engineering Physics in 1920, his college career having been interrupted by war service in the Royal Flying Corps. During his service in the Flying Corps he worked on radio, and when he returned to Kingston he established his own transmitter. This interest in radio was later to influence his professional life.
In 1921 he entered Harvard University, where he obtained an MA, and shortly afterwards he joined the Western Electric Company in New York to work on the recording of sound on film. In 1925 he transferred to Western Electric's Bell Laboratory, where he began what was to become his life's work: the development of frequency standards for radio transmission. In 1922 Cady had used the elastic vibration of a quartz crystal to control the frequency of a valve oscillator, but at that time there was no way of counting and displaying the number of vibrations as the frequency was too high. In 1927 Marrison succeeded in dividing the frequency electronically until it was low enough to drive a synchronous motor. Although his purpose was to determine the frequency accurately by counting the number of vibrations that occurred in a given time, he had incidentally produced the first quartz-crystal -ontrolled clock. The results were sufficiently encouraging for him to build an improved version the following year, specifically as a time and frequency standard.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
British Horological Institute Gold Medal 1947. Clockmakers' Company Tompion Medal 1955.
Bibliography
1928, with J.W.Horton, "Precision measurement of frequency", Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers 16:137–54 (provides details of the original quartz clock, although it was not described as such).
1930, "The crystal clock", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 16:496–507 (describes the second clock).
Further Reading
W.R.Topham, 1989, "Warren A.Marrison—pioneer of the quartz revolution", NAWCC Bulletin 31(2):126–34.
J.D.Weaver, 1982, Electrical and Electronic Clocks and Watches, London (a technical assessment of his work on the quartz clock).
DV

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

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