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FREDERICK JOHNSON HOOVEN 1905-1985 BY MYRON TRIBUS FREDERICK JOHNSON HOOVEN ctied suddenly on February 5, 1985. At the time of his death, he was professor of engineer- ing at Dartmouth College's Thayer School of Engineering. Fret] was born in Dayton, Ohio, on March 5, 1905, and grew up in Dayton near the home of the Wright Brothers, whom he came to know and admire. Nearly a half century later, he user! data they had obtained in their wind tunnel to design the paper airplane that won the "professional" clura- tion-aloft category (in a field of 10,000 entrants) in the Scien- tific American Great International Paper Airplane Contest. Fred Hooven lover! to invent things. He held thirty-eight U.S. patents and devised numerous other inventions he never bothered to patent. He invented the first radio com- pass (1936), which was the initial aircraft navigation system that permitter! distinction between forward and backward di- rect~on. Hooven was particularly unhappy that his new system was remover! at the last minute from the airplane of his friend Amelia Earhart and replacecl with the stan(lar(1 system of that time. Many people believe it was this less sophisticated navigation capability that caused her to overfly her destina- tion and become lost. Of his invention, Hooven said: "It was my own idea and it completely clominatecl the scene for that kind of crevice for a time roughly corresponding to the life 201
202 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES of the DC-3. It's made it routine to cross the ocean, where before it was an adventure." Other of his inventions inclucled a bombing intervalome- ter (19444; an automobile ignition system; the shoran bomb- ing computer (19481; the first heart-lung machine, which is still in use today in open-heart surgery (19521; the Harris intertype digital electronic phototypesetter (19551; and a front-end strive system for automobiles (19621. Fret! Hooven's engineering career started well before he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1927: In 1925, at DayFan Radio, he clesigne(1 im- provec3 radio receivers. After his graduation from MIT, he joiner] the staff of General Motors (GM) and designed a brake shoe system that was installed on all GM vehicles for the next twenty-five years. After two years at GM, however, he left the company for a position at the Dayton Rubber Company, where from 1930 to 1931 he designed automobile suspension systems. He next worked in the fielc! of aircraft performance for the U.S. Army Air Corps. During 1931 and 1932, Hooven clesignecT a blind aircraft lancling system for the American Loth Comnanv. Also in 1932 he independently proclucect the first successful high- fi(lelity crystal phonograph pickup. Then, as vice-president and chief engineer for Bendix's Radio Products Division from 1935 to 1937, he developed the first automatic steering system for an unmannec! flight. From 1937 to 1957, Hooven was self-employed as an indepenclent inventor, consultant, and contractor for new product research and development. In 1957 Fred Hooven went to work for the Ford Motor Company. (A GM executive described him as a "Ford trade secret.") Yet, although he invented the front-end drive sys- tem used by GM on the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Elctoraclo, he could not persuade Ford to use this invention. Nevertheless, at Ford he supervised the design and develop- ment of the Falcon, Thun(lerbirct, FairIane, and Galaxie au- tomobiles. --I ----I -
FREDERIC K JOHNSON HOOVEN Recalling those years at Ford, Lee lacocca writes: 203 The thing I remember most about Fred is that he said future cars would not be built the way cars were built then. Front-wheel-drive was the way of the future and rear-wheel-drive was antiquated. He would say, "It's silly to design cars the way we do. Why not put a power pack up front just like a horse? A horse will pull anything. Behind it you could put a fire truck, a station wagon, two people, four people, six people limousines." And of course it turned out that way, the way Fred said it would. We do have front-wheel-drive minivans today that were a glint in his eye then because he said that is the way to do efficient packaging. Hooven left Ford in 1967 to once again become a consul- tant and also adjunct professor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering. He became a part-time professor in 1975 ant! remainec! in that capacity until his death. Fret] Hooven enjoyed engineering. In fact, he enjoyed everything he clid. Hooven was interested! in both mocle} rail- roads and photography. He rebuilt a lens for a 35mm camera to provide extreme field (lepth and used it to produce a pho- tograph of a mocle} locomotive in front of the train station at White River function that was so skillfully done that it looked like an actual locomotive. (The photograph was even used on the cover of Mocle! Railroading magazine.) Hooven had fun with engineering; he built paper and balsa wood airplanes for his children and for the chitcl he kept alive within himself. Some of these planes were pro- pellecl with carbon dioxide cartridges and were perhaps the first jet-propelled mocie! airplanes. He also built a binary counter as a toy to amuse his grandchildren. He likecl to study whatever was new. He conversed intelli- gently with others about special relativity and quantum me- chanics. While in his seventies, Fred Hooven continued his innovative work in the areas of prosthetic orthopedic bone replacements, music synthesizers, lightweight autos, and computerized medical diagnoses.
204 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Fred was truly a classical engineer. He viewed the worId's problems in terms of their potential solutions. His impact on students and associates was extraordinary. Frect could stretch the reach of others: He could make them broaden their ho- rizons in terms of the problems they tackled and the ways in which they approaches] them. Fret! Hooven was truly an in- spiring teacher, colleague, and friencl. He gave of himself to others. A partial list of his public service activities includes the following: volunteer research associate in biochemistry and psychophysiology, FELS Insti- tute for the Stucly of Human Development; member, Board of Education, Oakwood, Ohio; trustee, Miami Valley Hospi- tal, Dayton, Ohio; trustee, Charles F. Kettering Foundation; founding member, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan; member, visiting committee, MIT; member, Commerce Technical Advisory Board, Pane! on Electric Automobile and Air Pollution; and reviewer for the UFO Sighting Commit- tee. Fred Hooven wrote numerous articles that were designee! to demonstrate the historic significance of various inven- tions. He reviewed in Petal! the data from the Wright Broth- ers' wind tunnel, proving by computer simulation that their original design was unstable. He commented: "A bicycle is also unstable. They were bicycle makers so they conic! fly it." Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him will remember him as a wise man one of those fully cleveloped human beings whom we are sometimes privileged to encoun- ter during a lifetime. Fret! Hooven was warm, sympathetic, and kindly. He would often take the other side of an argu- ment just to make someone think a little harcler. He would confront other people and their ideas in such a way as to make them go home and rethink their position yet never in such a way as to make them love him less. Fred Hooven was devoted to his wife Martha, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. ~ miss him deeply.