Boynton Hagaman Silent Key
fgentges at mindspring.com
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.
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
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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