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Henry Joseph Round

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Captain Henry Joseph Round (1881-1966)


1966 Obituary[1]

"WE regret to record the death on August 17 of Captain H. J. Round, M.C., A.R.C.Sc., whose name will be remembered not only as an outstanding pioneer in the early development of radio, but as one who continued contributing throughout a long and active life to ever-widening aspects of electronic technology.

Henry Joseph Round was born on June 2, 1881, at Kingswinford, Staffs. He joined The Marconi Company in 1902, and rapidly developed his interests in radio wave propagation and the elements of direction-finding. It was characteristic of his wide-ranging intelligence that in 1907, in a letter to Electrical World, he gave notice of his discovery that the application of an electrical potential across silicon carbide could effect the generation of light.

Before the 1914-18 war he had been responsible for the first use of different wavelengths by day and night to maintain long-distance radio communication, using this principle at stations on the upper reaches of the River Amazon which had been subject to heavy attenuation of their signals by the jungle, and which he virtually redesigned in situ although no spares were immediately to hand. Round was among the first to discover that the thermionic valve could generate continuous oscillations. Among important valve developments patented by him in 1913- 14 was the indirectly-heated cathode.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Round was seconded to Military Intelligence with the task of building a network of valved direction finding stations to cover the entire Western Front. He was later recalled to England to supervise the construction of a second network there, and it was these stations which, by detecting a 7-mile change of position of the German fleet 300 miles away at Wilhelmshaven, led to the deduction that it was about to put to sea. In 1920 Admiral Sir Henry Jackson publicly credited Round as the man responsible for the ensuing encounter with the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. For his services to the country, Captain Round was awarded the Military Cross.

In March, 1919, he directed the installation of a telephony transmitter at Ballybunion, Ireland, which became the first European station to span the Atlantic with telephony. Further experimental telephony work at Chelmsford followed which led, via the early broadcasts from the Marconi 2MT station at Writtle, to the establishment of the original London broadcasting station 2LO at Marconi House, for which Round designed the transmitting equipment. In parallel with all this work he carried out the redesign of the Caernarvon high-power station from spark to valve transmission.

Round was appointed chief of the newlyformed Marconi Research Group in 1921, an appointment which brought his inventive genius to full flood. In 1930 he patented a method of recording sound on film, a method which superseded the existing synchronised gramophone record for talking films.

In 1931 he resigned from The Marconi Company to set up in private practice as a research consultant, returning to the company in an advisory capacity in 1937 for work on echo sounding. During the Second World War he worked on ASDIC for the Admiralty, continuing with this until 1950. In 1952 he was presented with the Armstrong Medal by the Radio Club of America. Further work for the Marconi organisation followed, which was continued almost to the time of his death. During this final period he invented new magnetostrictive devices for use in echo sounders. He also introduced the first permanently magnetised nickel transducers, and the :first belt recording system for echo sounders. During the past ten years he was also carrying out important work for the company on ultrasonic antifouling devices for ships. Many of his ideas in these connections have formed the basis for patent applications. He was a truly great engineer, whose contributions to technology have helped in no small measure to shape the course of history."


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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1966 Jul-Dec