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HOWARD S. JONES, JR.
Conformal antenna systems
In a career spanning over forty years, Howard S. Jones, Jr. has become one
of our nation's most respected inventors and mentors in advanced antenna systems.
Born in 1921 in Richmond, Virginia, Jones did not discover his interest and
talent for science until entering Virginia
Union University at the encouragement of his mother. Upon earning a
B.S. in mathematics and physics there (1943), Jones decided to go into engineering.
With World War II underway, the country needed engineers; and Jones moved to
Washington, D.C. to work for the National Bureau of Standards (now the National
Institute of Standards and Technology).
Although Jones served as a Signal Corps specialist in Japan and was offered
an officer's position by the Army, he chose to return to research after the war
at an Army laboratory in Maryland. At the time it was directed by Harry Diamond,
who had specialized in ordinance technology at the National Bureau of Standards.
It was at the Harry Diamond Laboratory (now part of the U.S.
Army Research Lab) at Adelphi, Maryland that Jones rose to prominence,
as a specialist in antenna systems for weapons fuses. After arriving, Jones
was encouraged by his supervisors, "We want you to invent as prolifically as
had also worked in ordinance technology and was already a living legend at NBS.
Jones responded to this challenge by producing roughly a patent per year throughout
the '50s, '60s and '70s, including the radar fuse antenna systems used in most
of the missiles produced by the Army during that time.
Jones' first patent was for an "Antenna Testing Shield" (patent #3,029,430).
Engineers still use this hood to test a weapon's fusing system in conditions
that simulate flight through free space. But Jones' greatest contribution to
the development of weapons technology, involving a number of his patents, was
the "conformal" antenna array. Missiles, which for speed, accuracy and reliability
must be aerodynamic, require antennas for long-range electronic detonation;
Jones' breakthrough was to build antenna arrays of copper wire and electronic
circuits into the casing of a missile. Jones managed to eliminate the need for
spindly appendages that created drag during a missile's flight, without exceeding
specifications of weight and size.
Jones' lightweight conformal antenna arrays have been used in weapons like
the Patriot missile and spacecraft like the Voyager and have also set the precedent
for the "smart skins" developed for radar-evading aircraft like the "stealth
bomber." Meanwhile, Jones continued to invent and problem-solve in the field
of antenna technology and has shared his expertise with students, small businesses,
and government agencies throughout the country. Jones' younger colleagues cite
his enthusiasm for the practical, nuts-and-bolts elements of their craft, as
well as his encouragement that they be true professionals in their field.
Retired in 1980, Jones has a total of 31 patents to his credit, as well as
the IEEE's Harry Diamond
Award (1985). His numerous other honors include an honorary degree,
received in 1997, from Trinity College
in Hartford, CT and election into the National
Academy of Engineering in 1999. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his achievements
is that, despite the tremendous technical and financial resources committed to the defense industry,
many of his ideas and designs are still in use. Howard S. Jones, Jr. has certainly
succeeded in following his mother's advice: "Never look back. Always look ahead
and try to improve things."