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When tubes beat crystals:

early radio detectors
Although crystals were superior, tubes won out—until the solid-state
revolution reversed tradition with a different kind of 'crystal' detector
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communication were avidly seeking new ways of detecting weak minerals. They, as well as the vacuum-tube detectors, made use
radio signals, two major contenders appeared: the crystal detec­ of signal rectification, itself a novel idea at the time. And by vir­
tor and the thermionic diode detector. The two devices were tue of this, the "sensibility"—or efficiency of detection of small
associated inseparably with two disparate personalities: the s i g n a l s — w a s potentially improved. Naturally, with primitive
obscure H.H.C. Dunwoody, who espoused the crystal detector, technology the potential was not always realized; and it is
and the famous J.A. Fleming, who promulgated the vacuum- noteworthy that Guglielmo Marconi's early magnetic detector
tube detector. survived this erratic competition for more than a decade. Early
Fleming's device eventually triumphed. But it is now known comparisons of performance are not dependable because mea­
that Dunwoody's carborundum crystal detector was a superior surement conditions were not always understood or controlled.
device, on both practical and theoretical grounds. Later, of There is no way of knowing now whether the detectors were com­
course, the solid-state revolution ensured that virtually all radio pared under optimum conditions, or indeed were performing as
detectors would be "crystal" detectors, albeit a different kind of well as they were able to. This is particularly true in the case of
crystal. The Dunwoody and Fleming devices both detected by many crystal detectors, where the variable properties of natural
rectifying and converting a modulated carrier wave into a direct minerals and the delicate so-called cat-whisker contacts made
baseband signal. But the carborundum detector had a far steeper reliable, repeatable measurements impossible.
slope of output current versus input voltage, and it operated at a
lower temperature. Both characteristics combined to make the Enter carborundum
carborundum detector inherently more efficient. The exception was the carborundum-steel junction in carbo­
The ascendancy of the vacuum-tube detector seems to have rundum detectors. The hardness of carborundum permitted a
been a result of the introduction of the vacuum triode and high contact pressure, and the ample availability of material per­
regeneration, which made it possible to compensate for ineffi­ mitted selection of "crystals" with optimum semiconducting
cient detection by amplification and positive feedback. properties. (Crystal detector was the name applied by George
Most of the new crystal devices that appeared in the early 1900s Washington Pierce of Harvard University in 194)9 to the general
class of devices based on a wire contact on a mineral or metal
Desmond P.C. Thackeray University of Surrey
The author has found it easy to replicate early carborundum-

/// Surviving examples of

early radio hardware include
RCA's UX200, an argon-
filled detector triode, and the
Kenotron (far right), an
evacuated regulator diode.
A t center is the ED78, a Ger­
man (presumably Telefun-
ken) carborundum detector
with the rugged construction
appropriate for professional
equipment. The unit's re­
movable bayonet cap is at far
left. Two Carborundum Co.
detectors flank the ED78; in
contrast, they are perma­
nently sealed and seem to
have been intended for home

64 ()O18-9235/83/030O-OO64$OO.75©1983 IEEE IEEE spectrum MARCH 1983

steel detectors and to compare their direct-current characteristics
with a variety of old and new thermionic tubes [Fig. 1], as well as
with a modern semiconductor detector. The comparison is re- The cast of characters
vealing, because in all these rectifiers the current should be an ex-
Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody, inventor of the carbo-
ponential function o f the ratio o f the voltage drop to the absolute rundum detector (U.S. Patent 837 616, Oct. 11,1906) was
temperature o f the device. Such vacuum tubes have indirectly a united States Army officer for much of his life. Born in
heated (unipotential) thermionic emitters; tubes with filamentary Ohio in 1842, he attended the U.S. Military Academy at
West Point, graduating in 1866, and was promoted over
(directly heated) emitters do not follow the ideal current relation.
the years to brigadier general. He served chiefly in the
Present attempts to evaluate early detectors, as their inventors Signal Corps and helped found the U.S, Weather Bureau.
and users knew them, are hardly helped by the secrecy and lack Dunwoody resigned from the Army in 1904 and joined
o f coordination that accompanied early research. Detectors and the De Forest Wireless Telegraph Go. as a vice president.
detector theory did not develop in smooth and rational progres- !t was there that he found that a wire pressed into â car-
borundum crystal would detect a radio signal. He died in
sion, but in the usual fascinatingly wayward manner associated
with most human activities. Only on rare occasions did research- Sir John Ambrose Fleming, inventor of the "radio
ers describe their technology with clarity. Moreover, commercial valve," or thermionic diode (British Patent 24 850, Nov.
competition meant that there often was a great deal o f secrecy 16,1904), was born in Lancaster, England, in 1849. Dur-
ing his long and colorful life—in which he knew Thomas
about technical details.
Alva Edison and worked with such luminaries as James
To further cloud the issues, the early history of the radio tube Clerk Maxwell and Gugiieirno Marconi—Fleming experi-
was, to a large extent, à story o f argument and litigation about mented with and helped develop wireless telegraphy and
who was the first inventor. Colorful though this has been, such telephony, radio, and eventually television. His suits and
sordid struggles hardly enhance our images o f Fleming and Lee countersuits with Lee de Forest over who invented the
first thermionic tube became an international cause
de Forest and have tended to obscure the true nature o f their célèbre. Eventually the courts awarded Fleming the
technical contributions to radio. It is not surprising to find that diode patent and De Forest the triode patent. But in 1950
the myths are still promulgated in preference to the realities. a U.S. appeals court decided that previous awards were
It is easy enough to establish that the thermionic diode was void. Fleming died in Devon in 1945.
Lee de Forest, in whose employ Dunwoody invented
patented by Thomas Edison in 1884. Edison intended it as a sen-
the carborundum detector, was born in Council Bluffs,
sitive line-voltage indicator for his lighting supplies and hoped Iowa, in 1873. A scientist-entrepreneur in the classical
that it could be used as an automatic generator regulator. It is mold, his crowning achievement was the Audion tube,
easy to discern in these applications Edison's concern with elec- the first thermionic triode. With a stroke of genius, he
tricity generation, quite apart f r o m the problems o f the lamps interposed an electrode between the plate and cathode
and produced a device that could not only detect, but
themselves. By contrast, Sir Joseph Swan, in England, thinking amplify as well. Much of De Forest's life was marked by
primarily about lamp problems, was able to concentrate on im- bitter litigation. He died in Los Angeles in 1961.
proving lamp filaments. GreenEesf Wnfttier Pickard, who perfected Dunwoody's
invention for the De Forest Co., was born in Portland,
A first for Fleming? Maine, in 1877. He was a prolific inventor, who received
more than 100 patents. Pickard invented the first silicon
So if Fleming did not actually invent the thermionic diode, was detector in 1907. Although silicon outperformed most
he the first to use it as a rectifier o f alternating currents? The other materials, it was scarce at that time and was there-
answer may well be yes. In papers in 1890 and 1896, he described fore overshadowed by carborundum. — D.P.C.T.
a rectification effect that occurred when he fed the filament o f his
Edison-effect diode with alternating current. I n patent law, prior
publication may invalidate any subsequent recourse to patent
cover, but clearly there was thought to be some further novelty in
the application to wireless telegraphy (if not specifically radio- direct current versus plate-to-cathode direct voltage, the cathode
telephony) claimed in Fleming's 1904 patent. currents range to saturation values of 28 milliamperes or so and
Rectification o f Hertzian waves—mainly in the 10-kHz-to-l- the voltages t o 100 volts. There are very little data involving cur-
M H z span of radio frequencies—was long established by then; a rents o f less than 200 microamperes and voltages below 1 V .
phototube was used in 1894 and an electrolytic detector was used So Fleming apparently was not orienting his measurements
i n 1899. Power-frequency energy was successfully rectified in toward the "feeble electric oscillations of Hertzian wave teleg-
1903 by a discharge to a mercury-pool electrode. A n d when A . raphy." Although he apparently did not concentrate his mea-
Wehnelt patented his oxide-coated rectifier in Germany in 1903, surements o n this important region o f millivolts and micro-
he made no restriction on frequency. (Wehnelt added the oxide- amperes, he was honest enough to say in his paper that his R F
coated thermionic emitter to Ferdinand Braun's cathode-ray detector was ' 'not as sensitive as a coherer or magnetic detector."
tube—another diode—the following year, making it recogniz- Moreover, had he made R F measurements using Wehnelt's
able as the forerunner of the modern C R T . ) oxide-coated cathode as well, he might have found that the ther-
In retrospect, it is obvious that the scene was set for somebody mionic diode's lower temperature greatly improved its sensitivity
t o check whether thermionic rectification of a radio signal was a to small signals. However, at the time there were no theoretical
feasible method o f detection, and it was Fleming who demon- reasons for anticipating the ultimate superiority of any particular
strated rectification o f "electric oscillations" with an Edison- kind of detector, and the Marconi C o . found the "Fleming
type tube that he had constructed himself [Fig. 2 ] . There are diode" sufficiently sensitive to incorporate the device in some o f
several curious features about the paper in which Fleming its receivers for a number of years.
described his experiments to the Royal Society in 1905. For ex- It is reasonable to say that the real step forward from 1894 to
ample, hte makes no acknowledgment o f Edison, although in pre- 1903 was not so much in the hardware (useful or otherwise), nor
vious papers he had given Edison credit for the invention o f the even in the somewhat wayward experiments, but rather in the
tube itself. I n addition, in his data leading to graphs o f cathode very important idea that efficient detection meant the use of rec-

Thackeray—-When tubes beat crystals: early radio detectors 65

tification. It is tempting to think that this idea, as much as the in- which had just been enjoined from infringing on a patent for an
troduction of competing hardware, helped to stimulate the electrolytic detector.
growth of patents on the alternative rectifier detectors, based
upon asymmetric conduction in metal semiconductor contacts. Theory advances
Ferdinand Braun's crystal detector, based on the mineral Meanwhile thermionic theory took a giant step forward when
psilomelan, which appeared first, was probably a poor con- O.W. Richardson in England was able in 1908 to supplement his
tender, but it was followed closely by one of the best, the car- earlier emission theory for saturation currents with a relationship
borundum detector. that held for very small currents under nonsaturation conditions.
It seems strange that a man-made material like carborundum In effect, Richardson showed that the logarithm of current plot-
(silicon carbide) should so quickly have come to the fore in an ted against voltage was linear and that the slope of the plot was
area of experimentation that was so lavishly provided with inversely proportional to absolute temperature. This is the linch-
natural minerais. One explanation comes to mind: no doubt De pin upon which detector comparison hinges—that detector effi-
Forest himself was desperate to find a good detector not covered ciency increases with the slope of this log-linear plot, and hence
by prior patents. He may well have read of Braun's psilomelan improves in proportion as the temperature is lowered. And this is
patent and suggested tc Dunwoody that he try any material at irue whether the detector is thermionic or semiconducting, diode
hand as a point-contact rectifier. What is more likely to be or triode.
around a workshop than an abrasive such as carborundum? It There was still some curiosity as to why the tube detector was
was perhaps used for grinding and polishing components of elec- of low efficiency inherently but improved as the signal level was
trolytic detectors or coherers. increased. The àiïâwéf Câiïïe iiiïâiîy iiï 1922 when Ε.B. Mouiiin
Whatever the explanation, Dunwoody's primitive carborun- and L.B. Turner in England derived the relationship between
dum detector, patented in 1906, was sufficiently promising to De signal current after rectification, signal voltage applied to the
Forest to warrant further investigation. The De Forest Wireless detector, and the dynamic conductance derivatives of the grid
Telegraph Co. apparently called on Greenleaf Whittier Pickard characteristics. Moullin and Turner showed that the rectified
to make a workable detector from it. Pickard had previously in- signal current is proportional to the square of the applied signal
vented the silicon detector, a potentially excellent device that was voltage.
plagued by material scarcity and variability [see "A detector Investigating grid characteristics experimentally in England,
chronology," p. 69]. F.M. Colebrook in 1925, with the assistance of J. Hollingsworth
At the same time Pierce's systematic experiments helped con- of the National Physical Laboratory, seems to have reinvented
siderably toward the ultimate construction of a satisfactory car- the forgotten log-linear law of Richardson. And so simulta­
borundum detector. The device rescued the De Forest company, neously did the English researchers J.J. Dowling and J.M.P.
Higgins, who rightly combined it with Moullin's and Turner's
square-law relationship to obtain a "detection coefficient" as a
figure of merit. None of these researchers, however, seemed to
have any appreciation of the part played by temperature. They
did not explicitly state that detector efficiency increased as
temperature decreased. Such a statement had to wait until
1926-27, when several workers in Germany resuscitated Richard­
son's theory, though mistakenly attributing it to Walter
Schottky. The Germans also made use, without acknowledg­
ment, of the vital Moullin-Turner square-law relationship.

The thermionic tube to the fore

While De Forest was encouraging Dunwoody's work on the
carborundum detector, De Forest had already invented the Au-
dion, in which he added a control grid to the thermionic diode's
anode and cathode and thus produced the first electronic
amplifier, the thermionic triode. In 1906 the Audion was too
[2] Fleming's thermionic valve was essentially an incandescent rudimentary to be considered a detector, but with increased de­
lamp in which the tungsten filament was surrounded by a metal mand for long-distance telephony and other communication aids
cylinder. Charge, in the form of electrons, flowed from the nega- during World War I, the Audion was developed almost beyond
tive filament to the positive cylinder, and only in that direction, recognition. Improved versions emerged with better cathodes
thereby providing rectification. and a hard vacuum.
But while the modest audio gain of the triode made better use

[3] The carborundum detector was still

being improved in 1925, as this drawing
from a patent indicates. The patent is
for a new mounting method developed
by the Carborundum Co.

66 IEEE spectrum MARCH 1983

How detectors detect
Detectors like the thermionic diode and the crystal diode be a reproduction of the modulation envelope.
have a crucial property in common: their output current The mechanisms of detection employed by the thermi­
varies nonlineariy with the voltage input. When the device is onic and crystal diodes are quite different, of course. The
biased so its operating point is on the curved part of the thermionic device relies on the unidirectional flow of elec­
voltage-current characteristic curve, the positive cycles of trons through the vacuum from cathode to plate. In con­
the input voltage become stretched in the output current trast, the crystal diode functions through the one-way con­
waveform [Fig. AJ. duction of charge at the point contact between a metal wire
The distortion causes an increase in the dc component of and a semiconductor.
output current. The increase in the dc component—called The circuitry associated with the two detector types is
the rectified output—is proportional to the square of the quite different, too [Fig. Bj. The low inductance-to-cap-
amplitude of the applied voltage (hence the name "square- acitar.cs ratio in the crystal tuner and the high L-C ratio driv­
law detector"). When the input signal is a modulated wave, ing the thermionic diode, for example, reflect the disparity
the fact that the rectified output is proportional to the of load presented by the two kinds of detectors.
square of the inout siqnal amplitude causes the outoutR to

Current Crystal


Increase in current
caused by application
of signal


Output current versus input voltage

for a detector is nonlinear. This pro­
perty yields a net increase in output

Schematic diagrams of orysiai and thermionic diode receivers represent circuits of

moderate complexity. There were many variations on the theme of tuner-rectifier-
headphone, ranging from simple domestic circuits, with single tuning elements and
without bias features, to elaborate triple-tuned professional receivers. Juggling
with coupling and inductance-capacitance ratios, the operator optimized selectivi­
ty and sensitivity for a particular signal.

of what signal was detected by grid-cathode rectification, this did and Schottky in Germany, and germanium made its first ap­
not necessarily improve detection efficiency. Indeed, the grid- pearance as a rectifier.
cathode characteristic would have provided much less efficient
detection and more distortion than a properly biased carborun­ Old detectors in the modern laboratory
dum crystal, because of the thermionic tube's high cathode Today, 60 years after the ferment of detector development, it
temperature. What saved the day for the triode detector was the is clear that the tube with the highest slope of dc characteris­
introduction of radio-frequency regeneration—positive feed­ tic—plotted as the logarithm of current against voltage—will give
back. This boosted the weak signal before detection and thus the highest detection efficiency for small signals. And it is equally
compensated for the inefficient detection that followed. evident that the absolute temperature of the cathode—or
So the crystal detector moved off the professional stage for a preferably the generally higher value of cathode temperature
while, though it proved a godsend to the thrifty listener during deduced from the slope of the characteristic—is a useful guide to
the early days of domestic broadcasting [Fig. 3]. Nor was it detection efficiency.
neglected by scientists in the 1920s, for the first glimmerings of There is in addition a useful rule, pointed out by the Harvard
modern semiconductor detector theory began to emerge in researchers E.L. Chaffee and G.H. Browning in 1927: "The
papers by A.K. Phillippi of Westinghouse in the United States maximum rectified power for small values of the impressed EMF

Thackeray—When tubes beat crystals: early radio detectors 67

is obtained when the resistance of the load is equal to the filamentary emitters show marked curvature above about 10
dynamic resistance of the rectifier." This rule explains the virtue microamperes emission current.
of biasing a diode to the most suitable point on its characteristic The curves for four modern tungsten-filament tubes (GE10,
for the load it feeds. A2087, 5722, and 5845) were all found to lie very close to that of
With these ideas in mind, the author has measured and plotted the veteran UX200, while that of the 29C1 was marginally
dc characteristics for a variety of tubes and crystals and ranked steeper. These curves are not shown, to avoid cluttering the fig-
them by slope [Fig. 4j. From this data, it is possible to make a ures to the point of confusion. Likewise the curves for the
quantitative guess as to the relative merits of tube and crystal. UX199, UX240, and UV201 tubes—all veteran types—have also
Tube data was taken for as low a cathode temperature as possi- been omitted; they, too, were close to that of the UX200. In all
ble, so as to present the tubes at their best. the triodes (UX112A, 20, 801 A, and UX200), plates were
For realistic measurements, it is of course necessary to have a strapped to grids, so they in effect became diodes.
rough idea of the likely range of signai voltages available for
diode detection in antenna-powered receivers before the days of Placing the Fleming diode
high-frequency amplifiers and regeneration. For direct listening It is a matter for conjecture where the characteristic of a Flem-
on high-resistance headphones to tones in the middle of the ing diode might fall in Fig. 4. However, if only the cathode
audio range, where the ear is most sensitive, 100 millivolts and material is considered—probably a carbon filament from ex-
upward can be regarded as a strong signal and 1 mV and truded viscose rayon in the original tubes—impurities would
downward as a weak signal. The impedance level here is of the most likely have resulted in a work function slightly less than that
order of 1000 ohms, so the tube measurements were made largely of pure carbon; so a comparatively mûdesi iemperaiurc wouid
in the current range between 1 and 100 microamperes. (With re- have sufficed to produce enough emission for radio detection. In
sistive loadings of the order of a megohm—as in the cumulative, principle, then, the Fleming diode's emission characterstics
or leaky, grid detector—the current levels at the same signal might have been slightly better suited to detection than tubes with
power may be one and a half orders of magnitude smaller.) pure tungsten filaments, even though Fleming found the con-
Among the thermionic tubes measured, only those with unipo- verse to be the case. But in the absence of adequate published
tential cathodes (the 6X4, for example) maintain an essentially data on Fleming diodes at very low currents, this can only be con-
constant slope at higher currents. There is a degradation of slope jecture.
as one moves from oxide-coated cathodes to thoriated tungsten The two points plotted in Fig. 4 for the Fleming diode are from
filaments (801 A) and to filaments of pure tungsten (UX200). The Fleming's 1905 paper to the Royal Society (Proceedings of the
effect of temperature on detection efficiency is evident here: the Royal Society, Vol. 74, p. 482, Table I). It is to be hoped that the
thermionic tubes of Fig. 4 show a decreasing slope as the production diodes used by the Marconi Co. evinced better slopes
temperatures increase. than this primitive prototype.
So the curves can be ranked by slope, they have been shifted What of the Fleming diode's competitor, the Dunwoody car-
along the voltage axis with respect to one another by arbitrary borundum detector? Published characteristics do exist here and
amounts. In the case of the unipotential (indirectly heated) 6X4, there, and from them one can conclude that in practice they
the cathode temperature is so low that the curve flattens into the often had much poorer slopes than could be obtained from a
saturation region above the actual zero-voltage point. Tubes with really well made device. Luckily, excellent examples—in sound

diode — Carborundum— 6X4 UX112A UX200

Î Modem #
9 Survivor/'

[4] Detector character-

istics are arrayed from
left to right in order of
decreasing slope—and
detection efficiency. The
circles and squares repre-
a. sent measured values for
a carborundum detector
and a thermionic detec-
tor, respectively; the
values appear in articles
published in 1905 and
1906. Other measure-
ments were made by the
author. The vertical
scale is logarithmic, and
the horizontal scale is
linear. The horizontal
scale is normalized, so
the detectors—whose
operating points vary
widely—can be com-

IEEE spectrum MARCH 1983
A detector chronology
Event Frequency*
1374-83 Braun's crystal experiments DC
1884 Edison's lamp diode DC
1894 Elster and Geitel's phototube detector Very high frequency
1899 Pupin's electrolytic detector Up to 25 kHz
1903 Mercury-pool rectifier, Cooper-Hewitt Power frequency
1903 Wehnelt's oxide-coated filament No limit
1904 Fleming's "oscillation" valve DC and high frequency
1905 De Forest's "Audion"
1906 Braun's psilomelan detector 100 kHz
19QÔ Dunwoody's carborundum detector
1906 Pickard's silicon detector
1906 Brandes's theory of detection

1945Î The IN34 germanium diode and its successors

t In the preceding 40 years, progress was slow but more scientific, and steady engineering advances led to this mile­
stone of the 1940s.

mechanical and electrical condition—survive from the 1920s. state diodes of today. There should be no hesitation in awarding
These were made by the Carborundum Co., and it is also fairly the prize to Dunwoody, and by implication to Pickard, who
easy to make substantially similar detectors from modern sam­ refined the basic carborundum device.
ples of carborundum.
As Fig. 4 shows, the slopes are usually higher than those af­ To probe further
forded by any thermionic cathode; and the better ones approach The technical aspects of early radio are only patchily covered
half the slope given by a modern 1N34A germanium point- in available publications. However, the following texts throw
contact diode, which is itself close to theoretical for an absolute light on parts of the subject, detectors in particular:
temperature around 300 K. The slope of the early carborundum In Syntony and Spark (John Wiley & Sons, 1976), Hugh
detector (plotted from Pickard's 1906 article in Electrical World, Aitken gives an objective and factual account of the contribu­
Vol. 48, p. 994, Fig. 3) is within the range of modern repro­ tions of Hertz, Lodge, and Marconi to the development of radio.
ductions and survivors from the 1920s. In Saga of the Vacuum Tube (Howard W. Sams & Co., 1977),
It is sad to think that the makers of these old carborundum Gerald Tyne provides a comprehensive history and description of
detectors were probably unaware how closely their products ap­ thermionic vacuum tubes of all kinds.
proached the ideal at a time when the semiconductor age was far Vivian Phillips describes a multitude of detectors—devised
in the future. The ideal simply was unrealizable with the impure before crystal and thermionic detectors came into use—in Early
silicon and germanium of the times. It is possible that somewhere Radio Wave Detectors (Peter Peregrinus, 1980).
an enterprising radio buff may have thought of plotting the A classic work is George Washington Pierce's Principles of
characteristic of a carborundum detector on a log-linear basis for Wireless Telegraphy (McGraw-Hill Inc., 1910). Pierce gives an
empirical comparison with the grid characteristics so plotted for account of crystal detectors and provides many references to his
rubes. If so, the merits of the carborundum detector would have own publications and those of G.W. Pickard.
been obvious. But if anyone did make such a comparison, it The carborundum detector at its zenith is described in
seems to have disappeared without trace. the December 1925 edition of the magazine QST> "A New
Carborundum D e t e c t o r , " by M . L . Hartman and J.R.
Carborundum diodes still used Meagher, p. 31.
Carborundum diodes, however, are not totally lost and for­ Hank Olson surveys the field in "Diode Detectors," in Ham
gotten. Though carborundum is an awkward substance to work Radio, January 1976, p. 28. Alan Douglas recounts G.W.
with, strenuous efforts have been made to involve it in the semi­ Pickard's search for the ideal material in "The crystal detector,"
conductor age because of its great thermal stability and large Spectrum, April 1981, pp. 64-67.
energy gap. Carborundum has been used for blue light-emitting
diodes, for example. About the author
If theoretical analyses of small-signal-rectifier performance Desmond P.C. Thackeray is a member of the faculty of the
are applicable, there is little doubt that a good semiconductor Department of Music at the University of Surrey in England. He
detector must always be superior in detection efficiency to the teaches musical acoustics, electroacoustics, electronics, and the
best of thermionic diodes, because of the influence of tempera­ history of radio. He previously worked as a senior scientist with
ture alone. And undoubtedly as early as 1906 a crystal detector Vickers Research Ltd. and as a teacher and researcher of optics,
was made that was superior to any thermionic diode of the time spectroscopy, and crystallography in the Department of
or indeed later. The gap in performance was narrowed as cathode Chemical Physics at Surrey. He received the B.S. in physics from
temperatures were reduced, first by thoriated-tungsten filaments the University of London in 1948 and the M.S. (electrical
and eventually by the oxide-coated unipotential cathode. discharges in gases) and the Ph.D. (chemical physics) from the
But by then the Carborundum Co. was in regular production University of Surrey in 1961 and 1973, respectively. Dr.
of a detector of good quality, to be excelled only by the solid- Thackeray is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. φ

Thackeray—When tubes beat crystals: early radio detectors 69