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Radar pioneer Rosebury dies at 97

Fred Rosebury, 97, of Framingham, who came to MIT during World War II to do research at the Radiation Laboratory and headed the Vacuum Tube Laboratory for 20 years, died of complications resulting from a hip fracture on February 20. Mr. Rosebury, a longtime Natick resident, lived at The Heritage at Framingham, an assisted living facility.

Mr. Rosebury, born in London on July 10, 1901, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1910 and settled in New York City. After quitting high school, he traveled widely as a radio operator on tankers from 1920-27. He attended City College of New York, Columbia University and Cooper Union College, where he studied commercial art, a career he pursued from 1928-31. He worked briefly as a radio engineer and did research for the next 10 years at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, where he started as a part-time volunteer.

He joined the Radiation Laboratory in 1942 and invented several top-secret radar devices. While at the Vacuum Tube Lab at the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) from 1951-71, he published two manuals, several scientific papers and wrote the Handbook of Electron Tubes and Vacuum Techniques (Addison-Wesley, 1965), reprinted by the American Institute of Physics and Springer-Verlag in the 1980s. In addition, he served as a coach and role model for a number of PhD candidates.

Mr. Rosebury retired from MIT in 1971 and did engineering consulting for a number of clients including NASA, for whom he designed a heated glove to be worn by astronauts.

In addition to his engineering and scientific achievements, Mr. Rosebury was an accomplished artist who worked in many media including watercolor, pen and ink, scratchboard and gouache, and produced many serigraphs (silkscreen prints). His artwork was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in the early 1960s. He also made unusual jewelry, and in his 80s he produced a group of more than 35 constructions made from found objects.

Mr. Rosebury, a member of the Society of Wireless Pioneers, kept his ham radio operator's registration current and used his "rig" until shortly before his death to stay in touch with a number of people, among them his ham radio buddy and shipmate from New Jersey, Wayne W. Clifford.

Mr. Rosebury is survived by a daughter, Ruth R. Trussell of West Newbury, and a grandson, Jacob (Jake) H. Trussell of South Boston. His wife of 57 years, Pauline, died in 1993. Another son, Michael, died in 1996.

Mr. Rosebury willed his body to the Harvard Medical School for research. A memorial service will be scheduled. For details, contact Ruth R. Trussell at (978) 363-2981 or via e-mail at or

A version of this article appeared in the March 3, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 21).

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