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Dr. Lewis J. Neelands has been called an engineers' engineer by the people who worked with hin when he was with the Electronics Laboratory and Heavy Military Electronics Department in the 1950's and early 60's. His contributions to missile guidance and telemetry made him a key figure in the Altas Guidance and MISTRAM programs, two of our most challenging and successful efforts.
Neelands came with GE in Schenectady in 1945 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Radiation Laboratory where he worked in wave propagation during World War 2. His first G.E assignment was with the Hermes project, part of a concerted post-war program to develop a U.S. guided missile capability. His job was to come up with a telemetry system for transmitting data from missiles.
Working closely with the U.S. Army's team of Dr. Werner VonBraun and his German scientists and engineers, Neeland's first design worked flawlessly during its second test with a German-made V2 rocket. It was adapted for use later with the Army's NIKE air defense misslie system. The next step was an improved radio guidance system for the Hermes A3 missle. His design was an even greater success and it was subsequently adapted for the Army's Corporal tactical missle system.
In 1954, guidance systems work was transferred to Syracuse and Neelands headed up the E-labs guidance unit. A year later he moved to HMED. During this period, he tackled the high-priority, complex problem of developing precision guidance systems for an intercontinental ballistic missile. He conceived the basic radio guidance system that was to establish an incredible record of accuracy and realiability for the Atlas ICBM. The design, with improvements, was incorporated in the the MOD III guidance system still active after 20 years and 500 launches. Since 1964 the MOD III has been used for 240 consecutive successful launches - including th ePioneer and prestigious Gemini manned space missions.
His concepts have contributed to an estimated three-quarter billion dollars in GE sales, supported thousands of GE jobs and helped give the nation an important deterrent to agression during a critical period of history.In retrospect, Neelands says he does not get his greatest satisfaction from his work on the Atlas guidance (about which he says,"it was successful because of a bunch of other people who put it together and made it work"). It is MISTRAM, missile tracking and measuring system, that he remembers with greater pride. "Nothing could match it at the time for the complexity and precision it required," he recalls of the real-time measuring system for precisely tracking a missile's flight. One of his collegues remembers, "in 1960 he solved the elusive problem of trajectory measurement -- of bringing together at one place for processing, the signals received from widely spaced receiving stations while overcoming inaccuracies due to the propagation anomalies in the medium connecting the stations. A related problem that Lew solved was how to do this using frequencies sufficiently high to develop the required angular measurement accuracy without measurement ambiuities and without requiring a large number of receiving stations to resolve these ambiguities." He conceived a system of unprecedented accuracy.
A modest man, the importance of his work was best understood and appreciated by the engineers with whom he worked. "His intellect and ability to unravel tough problems made hime a highly respected and sought-after consultant," according to one of those engineers.