2001 Fellow

Presented to: Mr. Winslow Palmer

Citation: For his pioneering work in the Loran and OMEGA navigation systems.


Mr. Winslow Palmer received his B.S. in physics and math in 1937 from the University of Hawaii and an E.E. degree in 1939 from Stanford University. He built a servo system coupling the outputs of a Bendix Blind Landing system receiver to the A-2 auto pilot of a charted DC-2 which, at Wright Paterson Field in the summer of 1941, made what may well have been the first automatic radio controlled approach to a landing. Mr. Palmer went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1942 to learn about Loran, then returned to Sperry to build a Loran receiver displaying time difference on a counter rather than by pips on a CRT. This work evolved into the Navy DBE Loran Receiver and the Sperry Direct Reading Loran Receiver. At MIT, Mr. Palmer learned of experiments using Loran at LF (180 kHz) indicating the possibility of a positioning system yielding a repeatability of a few tens of feet at a thousand miles, provided cycle identification and sky wave discrimination could be solved.

Mr. Palmer's proposal to transmit Loran-type pulse signals on two LF frequencies differing by ten percent led to a USAF contract to deploy an experimental CYCLAN system on the West Coast, which not only yielded the expected repeatability but the finding that the second frequency was not actually required. This led to the development of Loran C, which in the 1960s and 1970s was expanded to cover not only the continental United States but also a considerable part of Europe and Asia. Loran C's thousand-mile range could not provide global coverage from available land sites. In the 1960s, J.A. Pierce's studies of VLF radio propagation at Harvard showed that VLF signals traveling as a waveguide mode between ground and ionosphere were sufficiently stable with no more than eight transmitting stations. In the 1960s, Mr. Palmer joined a team of four to lay out a design plan for what became OMEGA—an eight station global VLF positioning system providing global positioning for ships, aircraft, weather balloons and others. Mr. Palmer was awarded the United States Navy Certificate of Merit in 1946; the IRE fellow (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 1956; the Institute of Navigation Thomas L. Thurlow Award in 1967; and, jointly with R.L. Frank, the IEEE Pioneer Award in 1971.