The Radar War

Britton Chance was invited by to become a member of the MIT Radiation Laboratory (Rad Lab) in the summer of 1941. For the next five years he worked on many cutting edge technologies that contributed to the Allied effort during the Second World War. With his strong engineering background he quickly rose to head the Precision Circuits Group 63 and worked primarily on precision timing and computer circuits for long-range bombing and fire control. He also played a major role in the design and development of the SCR-584 anti-aircraft gun laying radar system. Among other notable projects, Chance developed precision time-delay circuits for the Long Range Navigation (LORAN) system, as well as navigation and bombing computers. In addition, he wrote and edited three volumes of the MIT Radiation Laboratory Series, a compilation of research results from the Rad Lab. His volume on waveforms was greatly influential on post-war circuit designers.

Click on the images below to learn more about this formative period of Chance's life.

1. This summary of Chance's experience is evidence of the rapid pace of life at the Rad Lab. Chance worked on 10 different projects in just under five years.
2. Chance's first project was to construct a precision ranging system for the gun laying radar, SCR-584. Here he draws out the equations and schematics for the circuit design.
3. One focus of Precision Circuits Group 63, the department run by Chance, was circuit development for precision bombing. Pictured here are notes from a bombing lecture.
4. In 1942, Chance was sent to England to exchange information on precision ranging circuits. This letter from Vannevar Bush outlines Chance's mission.
5. While in England Chance sketched out the general idea for the methods of and means for guided missiles, which he would eventually patent.
6. One of the many patents received by Chance over the course of his career.
7. Schematic drawings for precision navigation.
8. Birth of the Rad Lab Series, 1946.

About the APS

An eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, the American Philosophical Society promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, support of young scholars, publications, library resources, a museum and community outreach.

Follow the APS