Skip to main content

A Little Calculation For Lee De Forest

June 2024
1min read

In the summer of my junior year at Purdue University, I learned that there was a job open in Chicago for a young man who would be willing to work at $10 a week on a magazine called The Western Electrician . I went to Chicago and took the job. That was in the summer of 1907. When I opened up the desk which they assigned to me, I found in it a number of papers of one Lee De Forest. Lee De Forest had previously had the same job and was at that time earning, apparently, about $10 a week. But he had made it a condition that he would work on the magazine job only half time and spend the other half time working in the laboratories of Armour Institute. It was during those three days a week, while he was living on the $10 a week paid him by The Western Electrician for his editorial work, that he completed the experiments which led to the invention of the audion, or three-element radio tube, which has been the foundation of all of our radio industry to date. The other day I computed for him the money value of his invention, calculating that to date that little tube has been the foundation of over fifty billion dollars worth of electronic and radio products!

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.