The Microwave Oven, An Accidental Invention
The 1940’s had many technological advances, but there is one invention that most households use today that was discovered quite by accident. Percy Spencer invented the microwave oven. He was employed at Raytheon in 1941 and working with magnetron. In 1945 he was standing by an operating magnetron and the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. He decided to test eggs and then popcorn, and this resulted in popcorn popping all over the room. By 1947, the microwave oven was being sold by Raytheon. In his lifetime, Percy received over 300 patents.
The early microwave ovens were huge in size and cost compared to the small ones we can purchase today. They were about 5 ½ feet tall and weighed over 700 pounds. The average cost were about $5000.00 each. The magnetron tube used had to be water-cooled, so plumbing installations were required. With development, an air-cooled magnetron was developed, so plumbing was no longer an issue.
The first to use these microwaves were the restaurants. Microwaves meant they could keep food fresher longer, and heat when the customer ordered. But, soon households were purchasing them. Raytheon sold their first microwave oven in 1947; Radarange was the name chosen as a result of a contest given to Raytheon’s employees. These first microwaves sold to the public costs averaged about $2500.00. In 2012, we can now purchase a .9 cubic feet microwave as low as $50.00 at your local Walmart!
Percy LeBaron Spencer was born July 19, 1894 in Howland, Maine and died September 8, 1970 in Massachusetts. An aunt and uncle raised him; his father died when he was young and his mother abandoned him. What is amazing about his accomplishments was that he had very little in the way of an education. Percy was always interested in electricity. He was in the US Navy from 1912-1918 and this is where he gained a lot of his knowledge by attending radio school and his experiences while enlisted. For his work he was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award by the US Navy. He was married to Louise Larsen and had three sons.
On a personal note, I use my microwave daily. In the busy world we live in, it is very nice to be able to put a TV dinner in the microwave, and within minutes have a meal ready to eat. I also use it to heat water for my hot chocolate and to make popcorn. It has been a great time saver and I am very thankful for Percy Spencer and his accomplishments.
Percy Spencer and his family will be in the 1940 census along with many other great scientists and technologists. Please help index the 1940 census so we can quickly discover them and our families! Please visit the 1940 Census webpage to learn how to volunteer and participate in this great endeavor!
“As part of the 1940census.com ambassador program, this blog posts enters me into a drawing for weekly prizes.”