Leon S. Nergaard

Leon S. Nergaard
Leon S. Nergaard
Battle Lake, MN, USA
Associated organizations
RCA (Radio Corporation of America)
IEEE Mervin J. Kelly Award


Leon Nergaard, who was born in 1905 in Battle Lake, Minnesota, became interested in vacuum tubes when tubes of the VT series became available in 1919. He pursued this interest at the University of Minnesota (BSEE-1927), Union College (MSEE-1930) and again at the University of Minnesota (PhD in Physics-1935) after three years in the Research and Vacuum Tube Engineering Departments of the General Electric Company.

In 1933 he joined RCA and undertook his lifelong attempt to push the useful communications spectrum up another notch. He first worked on methods that would permit simple engineering measurements at UHF; then on television transmitting tubes. During the war, he worked on pulse radar tubes at frequencies that now span the UHF television band. After the war, this experience was put to new use in the construction of television transmitters at 288 MHz and 520 MHz, transmitters that demonstrated the feasibility of of television transmission at these frequencies. Since then he followed the same goal in a number of positions culminating as Director of the Microwave Research Laboratory at RCA Laboratories, a position from which he retired in 1970.

During this period he took an active part in associated IRE activities. He was chairman of the committee that issued the 1950 Standards on Electron Tubes. With George D. O'Neill, he founded the Professional Group on Electron Devices; was chairman of the Group in 1953-54; and, with G.D. O'Neill and Toivo Liimatainen, founded the Washington Electron Devices Conference. Dr. Nergaard was a Fellow of both the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is also a member of Theta Kappa Nu, Gamma Alpha and Sigma Xi.

Dr. Nergaard married Helga Wogensen in 1933. They had two sons, one of whom is in oceanography at MIT and the other, is with the Environmental Protection Agency of Vermont. All have shared a lifelong interest in camping in all its forms from back-packing to traveling by motor home. Their outdoor wanderings included all of the states of the Union and a considerable part of Canada.

Dr. Nergaard's second major spare-time interest was music. The piano helped defray college expenses and an interest in woodwinds took him from piccolo to oboe.

Since retirement Dr. Nergaard has served as a consultant to RCA on highpower tube problems, and his wife, an artist, returned to water-color after a long spell of graphics. These activities have suffered frequent interruptions when wanderlust has struck and a new corner needed inspection.