DEAD: Edwin Howard Armstrong

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

Edwin Howard Armstrong (aged 63)

American inventor of FM radio

Edwin Howard Armstrong (December 18, 1890 – February 1, 1954) was an American electrical engineer and inventor, best known for developing FM (frequency modulation) radio and the superheterodyne receiver system. He held 42 patents and received numerous awards, including the first Medal of Honor awarded by the Institute of Radio Engineers (now IEEE), the French Legion of Honor, the 1941 Franklin Medal and the 1942 Edison Medal. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and included in the International Telecommunication Union’s roster of great inventors.

DEATH: Bitter and overtaxed by years of litigation and mounting financial problems, Armstrong lashed out at his wife one day with a fireplace poker, striking her on the arm. She left their apartment to stay with her sister, Marjorie Tuttle, in Granby, Connecticut.

Sometime during the night of January 31–February 1, 1954, with his wife in Connecticut and three servants having left for the day, Armstrong removed the air conditioner from a window in his twelve-room apartment on the thirteenth-floor of River House in Manhattan, New York City, and jumped to his death. His body—fully clothed, with a hat, overcoat and gloves—was found in the morning on a third-floor balcony by a River House employee. The New York Times described the contents of his two-page suicide note to his wife: “he was heartbroken at being unable to see her once again, and expressing deep regret at having hurt her, the dearest thing in his life.” The note concluded, “God keep you and Lord have mercy on my Soul.” David Sarnoff disclaimed any responsibility, telling Carl Dreher directly that “I did not kill Armstrong.” After his death, a friend of Armstrong estimated that 90 percent of his time was spent on litigation against RCA. U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) reported that Armstrong had recently met with one of his investigators, and had been “mortally afraid” that secret radar discoveries by him and other scientists “were being fed to the Communists as fast as they could be developed”. Armstrong was buried in Locust Grove Cemetery, Merrimac, Massachusetts.

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