Oral-History:George E. Valley

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About George E. Valley

Andrew Goldstein conducted an oral history of George E. Valley, Jr. (1913-1999), on June 13, 1991, as part of the MIT Radiation Laboratory Oral History Project. Following Dr. Valley’s wishes, the transcript has not been published, but the IEEE History Center retains a file copy of the interview.

George E. Valley, Jr., studied at MIT and at the University of Rochester, where Lee A. DuBridge served as his thesis advisor. In 1941 Valley left his position as a National Research Fellow at Harvard to contribute to the war effort at MIT’s Radiation Lab. He initially worked on anti-aircraft and the SCR-584 radar, subsequently investigating the use radar for bombsights. He put the H2X system into production — more a political and administrative triumph than a technical one, in Valley’s estimation. The H2X did not improve bombing accuracy because Air Force planes were forced to fly in unwieldy formations to defend against the Germans, but it did allow for bombing through cloud-cover. In the late 1940s, Valley worked to record the Radiation Lab’s wartime work as an editor of the MIT Radiation Lab series.

Dr. Valley joined the faculty of MIT as a professor of physics in 1946. His work on the use of digital computers for air defense led to the formation of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, where Valley served leadership roles from 1949 to 1957. Valley then served as Chief Scientist of the Air Force, 1957-58. In 1969 he established the Experimental Study Group, a residential community for beginning MIT students which celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2009.

Valley was selected a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the IEEE. Governmental recognition for his work included the the President’s Certificate of Merit, the Air Force Association of Science Award, the USAF Exceptional Civilian Service Medal, and the U.S. Army Certificate of Appreciation.