American Philosophical Society
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Resident (1)
103. Engineering[X]
1Name:  Mr. Roger L. Easton
 Institution:  Naval Research Laboratory & KERNCO & New Hampshire Electric Cooperative
 Year Elected:  1998
 Class:  1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences
 Subdivision:  103. Engineering
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1921
 Death Date:  May 8, 2014
Roger Easton was born in a small village in northern Vermont to a town doctor and his school teacher wife. He and his older brothers and one younger sister went to local schools where they had very good teachers. He followed his older brother to Middlebury College where he was graduated during World War II. He went to work at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1943 with his initial work being on blind landing system for aircraft. In 1945 he was married to the former Barbara Coulter of Flint, Michigan. They had five children, three girls and two boys and five grandchildren. Two of the girls died in adulthood of two different cancers. When the development of rockets became important, he joined the Rocket Sonde branch and participated in the proposal that put NRL in the satellite launching business. He designed the Vanguard I satellite, now the oldest in space. Following the launch of the Russian Sputnik, he conceived the U.S. Navy Space Surveillance System, an electronic fence extending across the southern U.S. and detecting all satellites that crossed it. Later he added another fence parallel to the first one. With the two fences we were able to obtain near instantaneous orbital elements on all space objects crossing both fences. The second fence was a continuous wave radar type with timing signals sent by the transmitter and detected over the horizon and by reflection. With this fence it was possible to locate the satellites very accurately. However, the fence had one problem: that cesium-beam clocks had to be carried between the transmitter and the receiver in order to synchronize them. From this operation came the idea of having a satellite carry the clock and, since both the transmitter and the receiver would be visible simultaneously, the clock would not need to be a very stable device - a crystal oscillator would do. A few weeks later the idea appeared that this might be the basis of a navigation device with a great virtue of being capable of measuring range and of being passive so the user need not interrogate the satellite and hence the system would not be overloaded. Following these thoughts a simplified version was demonstrated to personnel from the Naval Air Systems Command. A work order followed and two satellites were used for the time transfer between England, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. These satellites used crystal oscillators as their timing sources. The next satellite used a rubidium clock designed by E. Jechart of Germany. Two of them were modified at NRL for use in space, the first ones so used. The next satellite, called either TIMATIONS 4 or NDS 2 (for Navigations Development Satellite) was launched on June 23, 1977 into a 12 hour orbit with cesium beam clocks and almost all of the characteristics of the GPS satellites. With this satellite we were able to measure the change in frequency due to gravitation very well and very close to that predicted by Einstein's general theory of gravitation. In 1980 Roger and Mrs. Easton retired to Canaan, New Hampshire where he started a career in public service. In 1982, he was elected in the first of two terms to the New Hampshire General Court and he later ran, unsuccessfully, for Governor. He served three terms as director of the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, and he has served on the Planning Board for the Town of Canaan. Awards he has received include the following: The Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award; The Institute of Navigation Thurlow Award; and the Sigma Xi Applied Science Award. Two awards are named for him - one for Space Surveillance and one for Space Navigation. In 1996 Roger Easton was inducted into the GPS Hall of Fame and in 2010 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1997 he was awarded the Magellanic Premium Award of the American Philosophical Society and, in 1998, he was elected to the Society.
Election Year
1998 (1)