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In April of 1916, a wireless antenna was seen strung from the tops of two buildings at Brown University, Maxcy Hall and University Hall. From there the antenna lead went into the basement of Wilson Hall. Here in the corner of the electricl engineering laboratory is found what is described as a audion detector and sending apparatus of a one-half watt, 60-cycle, quenched-spark set.1




Maxcy Hall

University Hall



Brown University
Annual Report
to the
President
October 1916


In 1917, wireless study was not just for men. Women were added to the course study of wireless as part of the effort to train women at jobs that were traditionaly held by men as part as the support of the WWI effort.


Brown University
Annual Report
to the
President
October 1917


Brown's introduction to wireless was all due to Electrical Engineering Professor Arthur E. Watson. 1



Arthur Eugene Watson (1866-1956), professor of engineering, was born in Providence on March 4, 1866. He graduated from Brown in 1888, and went to work with the Thompson-Houston Electric Company in Lynn, Massachusetts, and moved to Schenectady, New York, after the company became part of General Electric. He came back to Brown in 1895 as instructor in physics. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1899. He founded a department in the new field of electrical engineering. His title was changed to assistant professor of electrical engineering in 1914, and associate professor in 1920. In 1924 he designed the electrical plant for the airship Shenandoah. During World War II he designed electrical parts for Navy planes. After retirement in 1936 he continued his research in electrical engineering projects, some of them for military purposes. 2

On February 11th, 1947 Professor Watson sat at the head table of the Edison Centennial Dinner held at the Biltmore Hotel Ballroom sponsored by the Electrical League of Rhode Island in conjuction with The Providence Section, American Institute of Electical Engineers. 3 When Watson died on October 29, 1956, Professor Frederick N. Tompkins 1917, one of his students, wrote in the memorial minute for the faculty: 2

“He was a capable engineer who combined to a marked degree the qualities of the theorist with those of the practical man. He was able not only to design apparatus and systems but to build them himself. This ability made him of great value during the developmental days of Electrical Engineering and of particular value to his students. ... he was a gentleman and scholar of the old school. Greek, Latin, and the English of Chaucer came as readily to his mind as the intricate formulas and theories of Electrical Engineering. He had a fine command of English, which, combined with a rather elfin sense of humor, made his lectures and informal talks a pleasure to listen to. By nature he was a very calm person, certainly not of the worrying type. He had great religious faith, which seemed to assure him that all would be for the best, no matter what happened.” 2



Clisk to enlarge

Providence Sunday Journal April 9th, 1916


Brown Alumni Monthly
March 1937


The Daily Chronicle
January 8, 1900


The Christian Science Monitor
February 19, 1919



1 Providence Sunday Journal April 9th, 1916

2 Encyclopedia Brunoniana

3 Edison Centennial Dinner, 1947