The Mourning After

Vol. VIII No. 1 - SUMMER 1997

Television pioneer and retired Vice President of Research of the Rauland Tube Division of the Zenith Radio Corporation, Constantin S. Szegho died peacefully at his Edgewater home on Friday, October 27, 1995, at the age of 90. He had been a sustaining member of EHS since its inception in 1988.

Born on March 15, 1905, in Nagybocsko, Hungary (now in Romania). Constantin attended the Cistercian monks’ school in Pecs. He was graduated in 1923 and entered the Institute of Technology in Munich the same year to study electrical engineering.

After getting his degree in 1927, he went to the Aachen Institute of Technology in Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany, where he received his PhD in 1932. There he embarked on a life-long involvement with cathode ray tubes under the tutelage of Professor Rogowski, one of the foremost electro-physicists in Germany. After receiving his D.Sc, he became an instructor at the Institute.

In 1934, he went to Glasgow with his first wife Anna, a prominent sculptor, and worked for a year at the Royal Technical College. He met John Logie Baird, “the father of television,” who offered him a job in the Vacuum Tube Laboratory of Baird in the famous Crystal Palace in London.

World War II interrupted his work on theater-size projection television and Dr. Szegho, who as a Hungarian national could not be drafted, was sent to New York in 1940 to continue his work there, where TV was still just a laboratory item.

Norm Rauland, of the Rauland Corporation, hired him in 1942 and brought him to Chicago, where he was soon engaged in war work, notably the development of radar. This was a closely guarded secret in the U.S. and Dr. Szegho astounded the military by independently designing and producing the tube necessary for it.

Rauland was acquired by Zenith in 1948. In 1953, Dr. Szegho was named Vice President of Research, a post which he held until his retirement in 1968, when Rauland became a division of Zenith, producing millions of picture tubes used worldwide.

After his retirement, he worked as a consultant and was called on several occasions as an expert witness in important patent litigation.

Dr. Szegho and his colleagues were instrumental in making TV the large, rectangular, bright, colorful and well-defined image it is today. Besides TV, tube research resulted in lower dosage x-rays, safer skies due to enhanced air traffic control capabilities, important military developments such as night vision and pioneering work in fiber optics.

A long-time member of the American Physical Society and the American Optical Society, Dr. Szegho was made a Fellow and Life Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in 1951 and, in 1958, a Fellow of the Television Society. He is listed in Who’s Who in Engineering and Hungarians in America. He received over 60 patents in the U.S. and Great Britain and his many publications are cited in technical histories and textbooks.

Despite his many accomplishments, Dr. Szegho remained a modest man. He was revered by his colleagues and helped many of his young lab assistants on their way to prominent careers of their own. He was admired for his encyclopedic range of interests - philosophy and literature (both of which he read in several languages), art, music and politics. He was also dedicated to preserving a record of the inspired work of many over the span of the 20th century that brought us so many technological marvels.

He is survived by his present wife, Elisabeth (an active EHS member) and two sons from a previous marriage, Raymond Sager of Toronto, Canada, and Steve Szegho of Chicago, and a grand-daughter, Taylor, of Toronto.

Memorial donations to The Chicago Ensemble, 1416 W. Winnemac, Chicago, IL 60640, are still welcome and help fund an annual classical chamber music concert dedicated to Dr. Szegho.