In the Shadows of Greater Minds

The life of many persons can be rather uneventful and therefore of little interest to write about; the following, which is about the writer, is one example. However, the writer greatly appreciates the work of those who, for several reasons, spend their lives in repetitive, routine jobs. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those persons. Fortunately for the writer he had several work opportunities in his lifetime that allowed complete freedom to try to accomplish certain goals. Some of these are discussed in this write-up.

The Start of It All
The writer was born on 18 May 1931 in Flint, Michigan. I took drafting courses in high school and after graduation worked in local companies, such as the Buick Motor Division of General Motors (as a Tool and Die Drafting Apprentice), as well as others - and at a firm in Detroit. During my stay at the company in Detroit I was sent on a per diem basis to work at the Ford Aircraft facility in Chicago.

In January of 1952 I received an order to report for induction into the U.S. Army. However, I had entered Michigan State College and therefore received a postponement.

In 1953 I married Mary Lou Tobin, whom I met in high school. She not only helped me to pay for schooling but has been a mainstay through more than 57 years.

In 1955 a B. S. degree in Physics was received from Michigan State College. In 1956 a M.S. degree was received from Michigan State University, which had changed it's name. The Master's degree was earned under the tutelage of Donald J. Montgomery. The subject matter of the thesis was "Lattice Constants of Separated Lithium Isotopes."

After graduation I entered the employ of the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, at their Research Laboratory. I worked under William Meiklejohn on the growth of whiskers on metal surfaces. This work was related to fine particle magnets.

Military Service
In January of 1957 I was called up to serve in the military following my earlier postponement. I underwent basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. From there I was sent to Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, it being a Biological Warfare Facility. It was my good fortune to be assigned to a laboratry managed by J. B. Bateman. He was interested in studying thin films of organic materials by optical means. This was done by depositing them on thicker films, which consisted of barium stearate multilayers.

Monolayers of films had been deposited on water by Nobel Laureate Irving Langmuir. His associate, Katharine Blodgett, later discovered the ability to deposit multiple layers of stearate films onto a glass slide. This was to be the area I would work in. I worked on films at Fort Detrick until January of 1959, after which I was discharged from the Army.

General Electric Research Laboratory Training Program

General Electric Photograph

Working in Gert Ehrlich's laboratory at the GE Research Laboratory
in 1959 and 1960 on the interaction of gases on metal surfaces.

After leaving the Army I entered the General Electric Research Laboratory Training Program. I worked there from January of 1959 to December of 1960. The project worked on dealt with the adsorption and desorption kinetics of xenon and tungsten.

General Electric Lighting in Cleveland, Ohio
From 1960 to 1992 I worked in research and engineering in the Lighting Business Group. The work was varied, from pure research, such as the visualization of the Langmuir sheath around the filament in a gas-filled incandescent lamp, to thermal measuremnets of reactors being developed for fluorescent lamps.

My GE work experience was most gratifying and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a great deal of freedom. My work output, for what it was worth, was due in large part to knowledge the managers and colleagues conveyed to me. The knowledge gained from others includes persons from outside of GE, who, in some cases, had connections with GE. Among those are Harold Edgerton of MIT, Willem Elenbaas of the Philips Company and John B. Bateman of Fort Detrick. An incomplete list of GE people who had a positive influence on my working career include Harold Letner, John Ingold, David H. Green, Milan R. Vukcevich, Richard L. Hansler, Constantine Neugebauer, Elmer Fridrich, Gert Ehrlich, Edward G. Zubler, Elliot Q. Adams, John O. Aicher, Gorton R. Fonda, William E. Forsythe, Edward E. Hammer, Franklin S. Terry, Gilbert H. Reiling, Alfred E. Lemmers, Fred Mosby, John W. Howell, Duryea Elmendorf, Irving Langmuir, Carl E. Kenty, Katharine B. Blodgett and John E. Breen.

In conclusion it must be said that it was beneficial and a pleasure to work in the shadows of greater minds.

Edward J. Covington
March 2011