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Engineers working on Telstar satellite, 1962 Pierce, John (1910-2002)

John Pierce was responsible for the building of the first space communication satellites, Echo and Telstar.

Pierce was born in Des Moines, Iowa but moved to the West Coast, where he studied at the California Institute of Technology, attaining a Ph.D in 1936. He was a dreamer and an avid reader of sci-fi stories as a teenager. He wrote 22 sci-fi articles for magazines himself under the pen names John Roberts and J.J. Coupling. But Pierce was serious about dreams coming true and he worked at the Bell Laboratories for 35 years.

Detailed theory behind communications satellites was proposed by Pierce in 1954, but initially there was a lot of resistance to actually launching one. Finally, having designed, developed and produced them, he saw his vision become a reality with the launching of Echo in 1960 and Telstar in 1962.

Pierce also thought up the name 'Transistor' for Walter Brattain's invention by fusing the words transconductance and resistor.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

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The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

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