Boynton Hagaman Silent Key

Frank Gentges fgentges at
Thu Nov 2 20:56:44 CST 2006

Boynton did a nice presentation on his VLF work some years back at one 
of our meetings.  His presentation helped us get going on our LF work 
and he will be missed.

Frank K0BRA
Boynton G. Hagaman, 88; Engineer Designed Antennas*

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2006; B07

Boynton Glenn Hagaman, 88, a self-taught engineer who designed antennas 
that allowed the Navy to communicate with Polaris missile submarines and 
who invented the first tachometer that gave physicians an instant way to 
measure patients' heart rates, died of a heart attack Oct. 20 at his 
Alexandria home.

The very low frequency, or VLF, antennas that Mr. Hagaman designed 
helped submarine crews navigate and communicate using the Omega 
navigation system, the predecessor of satellite-controlled global 
positioning systems. His antennas were built all over the world, 
including in Norway, India, Australia and the United Kingdom. One of the 
first, a horn-style antenna that was more than 900 feet long, was 
constructed in the early 1950s near La Plata.

His first VLF station was built in Cutler, Maine, and covered 12 square 
miles with 23 towers nearly 1,000 feet tall. Later towers exceeded 1,500 

"He's right at the top of the list of experts in submarine 
communications and navigation," said former business partner Stephen 
Kershner. "A lot of the navies in the world know about him. . . . He was 
just good at everything he did."

Mr. Hagaman, who wrote the chapter on VLF antennas in the McGraw-Hill 
Antenna Engineering Handbook, also designed high-frequency antennas that 
relayed signals for radio and TV stations, including Voice of America 
and news and entertainment broadcasters.

One of his more dramatic designs is the radio transmitter for the 
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center's famous radio telescope in 
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which hangs like a spider in a web 450 feet above 
its reflector. The Arecibo model is the largest and most sensitive 
single-dish radio telescope in the world.

Mr. Hagaman's interest in electronics was piqued during his childhood in 
Rochester, Minn., where he played with ham radios and earned his first 
radio license at 13. He designed and built a radio station in his home 
town and the radio system for the local police department. As a 
teenager, he learned to fly and soloed before his parents knew he had 
taken a lesson. He attended a local junior college but did not receive a 
degree, turning down a music scholarship to follow his fascination with 
ham radios, electronics and flying, his family said.

During World War II, Mr. Hagaman worked for a Rochester electronics 
manufacturing company that built military signals equipment. While 
working there, he developed the circuit for the first instantaneous 
cardio-tachometer, for which he received a patent. He moved to Northern 
Virginia in 1951 to become principal engineer for Development 
Engineering Co., known as DECO.

At DECO, he designed the horn antenna near La Plata. The Navy then hired 
the firm to create a way to communicate with its nuclear-powered 
submarines. Once the antenna was designed, Mr. Hagaman and the company 
were asked to build more VLF antennas, and he began working all over the 

In 1971, after DECO was sold to Westinghouse, Mr. Hagaman became vice 
president and partner with the consulting firm Kershner, Wright & 
Hagaman. He continued to design antennas that were built in Hawaii, 
North Dakota, England, India and France.

Mr. Hagaman, a well-known aerobatic pilot, owned two planes at the time 
of his death, including a Pitts Special, which he built from schematics 
in his garage. He was also a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic 
with inspection authorization.

Mr. Hagaman was also an amateur musician and played the drums and tuba 
in dance bands. For a time, he played his favorite instrument, the 
euphonium, in the Washington Redskins band.

His wife of 59 years, Gertrude Waldron Hagaman, died in 1998.

Survivors include four children, Annette Steucke of Seattle, Charlotte 
Watson of Martinsburg, W.Va., John Hagaman of Alexandria and Craig 
Hagaman of Berryville, Va.; and eight grandchildren.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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