Ives, Herbert Eugene

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Ives, Herbert Eugene

(b. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 31 July 1882 ; d. New York, N .Y., 13 November 1953)


The course of Ives’s career was strongly influenced by his father, Frederic Eugene Ives, who developed several processes connected with color photography and halftone printing. Much of the elder Ives’s experimentation was done at home and must inevitably have influenced his son. In the period 1898-1901 Herbert worked for his father in the Ives Kromskop Company, designing and constructing apparatus for color photography. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania, receiving the B .S. in 1905. He obtained a Ph .D. from Johns Hopkins in 1908, working under R.W. Wood and writing a dissertation on a study of standing light waves in the Lippmann photographic process .

Ives was employed by the National Bureau of Standards (1908-1909), the National Electric Lamp Association in Cleveland, Ohio (1909-1912), and the United Gas Improvement Company in Philadelphia (1912-1917). He volunteered for the army, working on aerial photography for the Signal Corps (1918-1919). One result of his service was the book Airplane Photography, published in 1920. After the war Ives went to work for the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he remained until his retirement in 1947 .

Ives received numerous awards during his lifetime, including medals from the Franklin Institute and the Optical Society of America, and the Rumford Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was president of the Optical Society in 1924-1925 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1933 .

On 14 November 1908 Ives married Mabel Agnes Lorenz; they had three children. His avocations included coin collecting, and he was president of the American Numismatic Society in 1942-1946. A portrait painter of some talent, he developed a threecolor palette .

Ives’s early involvement with photography led him into a long association with problems in colorimetry and photometry, and papers on these subjects dominate the period of his life prior to World War I. He was especially concerned with the design of photometric instruments. His papers are credited with having been largely responsible for introducing tristimulus colorimetry into the United States.

After moving to the Bell Laboratories, Ives became more interested in photoelectric effects and in television. He measured in great detail the photoelectric effect of alkali metal films as a function of polarization, angle of incidence, and alloy composition. Changes in these variables produced some striking anomalies, which Ives eventually concluded were due to standing wave patterns formed in the film. Another series of experiments led him to conclude that the photoelectric and thermionic work functions were identical .

Ives spent a considerable amount of time from 1924 to 1930 on the development of television. Using Nipkov disks with photoelectric cells at the transmitter and neon lamps at the receiver, he performed a series of successful demonstrations, beginning in 1927 with a transmission between Washington and New York.

In 1938 and again in 1941 Ives, together with G. R. Stilwell, described a series of experiments on the transverse Doppler effect. It had been suggested by Einstein in 1907 that this effect-which could confirm the Lorentz transformations as applied in the special theory of relativity-might be discovered by observing hydrogen canal rays. A special tube developed by A. J. Dempster in 1932 produced spectral lines narrow enough so that the small displacement could be observed. Other specialized experimental techniques enabled Ives and Stilwell to find the effect, which was consistent with prediction. Nevertheless, Ives was an opponent of Einstein’s theory and attacked it in several of his publications .

Ives received more than 100 patents for a variety of inventions, most of them related to his interests in photography, photoelectricity, and television. All but half a dozen of them were issued during the period of his employment at the Bell Laboratories .


An essentially complete bibliography of more than 250 papers plus 100 patents is given in the memoir by Buckley and Darrow (see below). Ives’s work on the photoelectric effect, covered in a series of papers published from 1922 to 1938, is summarized in his Rumford Medal lecture, “Adventures in Standing Waves,” in Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 81 (1951), 1-32. The canal ray experiments are reported in “Experimental Study of the Rate of a Moving Atomic Clock,” in Journal of theOptical Society of America, 28 (1938), 215-226, and 31 (1941), 369-374. Criticisms of Einstein include “Revisions of the Lorentz Transformations,” in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 95 (1951), 125-131 ; and “Derivation of the Mass-Energy Relation,” in Journal of the Optical Society of America, 42 (1952), 540-543. Ives’s papers are preserved at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Experimental apparatus is at the Smithsonian and at the Bell Telephone Laboratories.

A biography of Ives by Oliver E. Buckley and Karl K. Darrow appears in Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 29 (1953), 145-189 .

Bernard S. Finn