Louis Winslow Austin biography

Louis Winslow Austin

Physicist, Academic

1867 – 1932


Who was Louis Winslow Austin?

Louis Winslow Austin was an American physicist known for his research on long-range radio transmissions.

Austin was born in Orwell, Vermont, and educated at Middlebury College and the University of Strasbourg, from which he received a Ph.D. in 1893. From 1893-1901, he taught physics as an instructor and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, then returned to Germany for two years at the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in Berlin where he performed research on hot gases.

In 1904 Austin joined the National Bureau of Standards to study radio propagation. After the United States Navy established its Naval Radio Telegraphic Laboratory within the bureau, Austin served as its director from 1908–1923, and from 1923-1932 as chief of the Radio Physics Laboratory.

Austin's research focused on radio propagation and static, and more specifically the influence of temperature, humidity, magnetic storms, and sunspots on long-range radio transmissions. Under his direction, the Navy conducted long-distance wireless measurements in 1909 and 1910 between the USS Birmingham and USS Salem, as they steamed to Liberia and back, and Fessenden's station at Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Austin measured received impulses from the ships on the 3,750 and 1,000 meter wavelengths to determine the relationships between radio frequency, distance, and received signal strength. These measurements led Austin and collaborator Dr. Louis Cohen to develop the empirical Austin-Cohen formula for predicting radio signal strength at long distances.


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Oct 30, 1867
  • United States of America
  • University of Strasbourg
  • Middlebury College
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lived in
  • United States of America
  • Washington, D.C.
Jun 27, 1932
Washington, D.C.

on July 23, 2013

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