Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler: Unsung Hero Of The Post world War II Electric Guitar Revolution?

Even though his work is largely devoted to energy efficient UV lamps for zapping dangerous microbes, does Dr. Harvey c. Rentschler’s other discoveries pave way for the post World War II electric guitar playing revolution and Rock N’ Roll?

By: Ringo Bones 

Unlike Albert Einstein, Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler never became a household name for much of the 20th Century, and yet without his important discoveries, contemporary popular music and electric guitar playing after World War II would have been very different. And music recording via mixing desk like those in the iconic Sun and Abbey Road studios would never had existed without his discoveries and the world would also had never heard of Elvis Presley or The Beatles without his discoveries that led to the more efficient, smaller and cheaper thermionic vacuum tubes. 

When he told his findings to a meeting of the American Physical Society which was then published in the July 1943 issue of the Scientific American magazine, Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler told the attendees about what he had found out in experiments which he conducted eight years before. It led him to conclude that atoms of gas – oxygen, hydrogen or nitrogen – actually dissolve in the crystalline structure of some metals just as salt dissolves in water. These gas particles then “loosen” the electrons in this structure, causing them to be emitted from the metal more readily when heat is applied. This explanation, according to Dr. Rentschler, should result in longer-lasting thermionic vacuum tubes and accomplish important savings to the size and number of batteries, generators and other apparatus needed to supply the filament power. 

Without discovering the then unknown principles that led to the advanced thermionic vacuum tube design principles that led to smaller, more energy efficient thermionic vacuum tubes by Dr. Rentschler, Rock N’ Roll would never had existed and electric guitar playing would be a rather expensive hobby dominated by large inefficient vacuum tubes and ultra-expensive gear the average kid from the 1950s could never afford. Dr. Jim Marshall would probably use something else entirely when he developed his now iconic Marshall Amplifier back in 1962. Thanks to Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler, we have 12AX7 preamplifier tubes that can operate with anode voltages as low as 45 volts DC – making the now 48 Volt DC phantom power de rigueur in the modern post World War II recording studio when Les Paul invented it. 


  1. Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler should be remembered for advancing post World War II thermionic vacuum tube design - like when Lee De Forest was forever remembered for placed grids and anodes inside a stock Edison light bulb back in 1906 and invented the Audion triode vacuum tube and thus stated the electronics revolution.

  2. Sometimes I wonder too how the Lee De Forest first Audion vacuum tube will sound as a zero feedback single-ended triode amplifier given that audio output vacuum tubes older than the Western Electric 300B had been already pressed into service as hi-fi amps, like the PX25 tube. And I to wonder if Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler is into vacuum tube based hi-fi.

  3. Has Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler's research also influenced the design and creation of nuvistors?

  4. Given that nuvistors are ultra-compact / ultra-small thermionic vacuum tubes, then yes, Dr. Harvey C. Rentscler's research really did contribute to the development, creation and manufacture of nuvistors.