Carson, John Renshaw, 1887-1940

Alternative names
Birth 1887-06-28
Death 1940-10-31

Biographical notes:

John Renshaw Carson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1886. He graduated from Princeton University in 1907 with a Bachelors of Science degree. He then attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year before returning to Princeton to continue his studies. Princeton University awarded him a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1909 and a master of Science degree in 1912. From 1912 to 1914 John Carson was an instructor in Electrical Engineering and Physics at Princeton University. In 1913 he was offered a position at American Telephone and Telegraph Company and in 1914 he resigned his position at the university. At American Telephone and Telegraph he was a transmission theory engineer involved in early radio telephone experiments. In 1917 he invented the “side band” system which allowed several telephone calls to be transmitted simultaneously by a single electrical circuit. He was responsible for the first installation of this system between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Carson also developed the mathematical background for the use of metal pipes to guide radio waves. In 1924 the Institute for Radio Engineers endowed him with the Liebman Memorial prize. From 1925 until the time of his death in 1940 he worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories as a mathematician and electrical engineer. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1937, and was given the Elliot Cresson medal from the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia in 1939. Carson was the author of approximately fifty professional papers. His best known work is the Electric Circuit Theory and the Operational Calculus. At his death on October 31, 1940, he was survived by his wife Frances Atwell Carson and his son John Jr.

Biography of Joseph Robb Carson

Joseph Robb Carson (1886-1953) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 28, 1886. Robb attended the Allegheny Preparatory School before entering Princeton University in 1903. He received a Bachelors of Science degree from the university in 1907. Afterwards he studied law at the University of Pittsburgh for one year. Later he was a Professor of Economics at Decatur University. Poor health plagued his life and interrupted his academic career. His many interests were demonstrated by working at a variety of jobs such as engineering in Idaho, writing at the Wall Street Journal, and as a statistician for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company before retiring in 1927 from all activity. He was married in 1930 and spent the remainder of his life in California and Arizona. His 107 classmates remember that “his was a gentle and lovely spirit and his mind before his illness was a brilliant one.” He died in February 1953, in Burbank California.

From the guide to the John and Robb Carson Letters, 1903-1908, (Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections)

Physicist and historian of science Thomas Darlington Cope received his A.B. (1903) and Ph.D. (1915) from the University of Pennsylvania; he became an instructor and later professor there from 1906-1952. He also studied at the University of Berlin (1912-1913) under Max Planck.

From the guide to the Thomas Darlington Cope papers, ca. 1909-1964, Circa 1909-1964, (American Philosophical Society)


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  • Electric circuits
  • College students--New Jersey--Princeton--Social conditions--20th century


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