A history of slide rules for blackbody radiation computations

R. Barry Johnson, Seán M. Stewart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

During the Second World War the importance of utilizing detection devices capable of operating in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum was firmly established. Up until that time, laboriously constructed tables for blackbody radiation needed to be used in calculations involving the amount of radiation radiated within a given spectral region or for other related radiometric quantities. To rapidly achieve reasonably accurate calculations of such radiometric quantities, a blackbody radiation calculator was devised in slide rule form first in Germany in 1944 and soon after in England and the United States. In the immediate decades after its introduction, the radiation slide rule was widely adopted and recognized as a useful and important tool for engineers and scientists working in the infrared field. It reached its pinnacle in the United States in 1970 in a rule introduced by Electro Optical Industries, Inc. With the onset in the latter half of the 1970s of affordable, hand-held electronic calculators, the impending demise of the radiation slide rule was evident. No longer the calculational device of choice, the radiation slide rule all but disappeared within a few short years. Although today blackbody radiation calculations can be readily accomplished using anything from a programmable pocket calculator upwards, with each device making use of a wide variety of numerical approximations to the integral of Planck's function, radiation slide rules were in the early decades of infrared technology the definitive "workhorse" for those involved in infrared systems design and engineering. This paper presents a historical development of radiation slide rules with many versions being discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTribute to William Wolfe
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2012
EventTribute to William Wolfe - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 15 2012Aug 15 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Volume8483
ISSN (Print)0277-786X

Other

OtherTribute to William Wolfe
CountryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA
Period8/15/128/15/12

Keywords

  • Blackbody radiation
  • History
  • Planck
  • Radiometry
  • Slide rules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Barry Johnson, R., & Stewart, S. M. (2012). A history of slide rules for blackbody radiation computations. In Tribute to William Wolfe [848302] (Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering; Vol. 8483). https://doi.org/10.1117/12.932274