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Lee Davenport, researcher at the Radiation Laboratory during World War II, dies at 95

Lee L. Davenport
Lee L. Davenport
Photo: Anne W. Semmes

Lee L. Davenport, who worked at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory during World War II and has been credited with helping to bring an end to the war, died of cancer on Sept. 30 at the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center. He was 95.

Davenport received a BS from Union College in 1937, and an MS in 1940 and his PhD in physics in 1946 from the University of Pittsburgh. From 1940 to the end of World War II, Davenport was a research fellow at the Radiation Laboratory at MIT, developing the revolutionary antiaircraft system known as microwave radar or SCR-584 (Signal Corp Radio #584), which helped save England from V1 buzz bombs. The SCR-584 went on to play an important part on the battlefields of both the European and Pacific theaters.

After the war, Davenport received his doctorate for his design for remote controling a missile over a radar beam without being taken over by an enemy, which was effectively the first guided missile and precursor of today's drones.

From 1946-1950, Davenport served as research fellow at Harvard University with responsibility for the nuclear lab and building of a 92-inch cyclotron that was then the second largest atom smasher in the world. He also taught physics at Radcliffe College during his time at Harvard. He later went on to work for Perkin-Elmer Corp, where he would retire from in 1980.

He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1973 for his original contribution to the development of radar, infrared analytical instrumentation, and his leadership in the development of communications technology. He was also a member of the American Physics Society

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Lee Davenport will be held on Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 108 Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich, CT 06870. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First Congregational Church or to The Nathaniel Witherell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 70 Parsonage Road, Greenwich, CT 06830. Funeral arrangements are by Fred D. Knapp & Son Funeral Home.

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