John Call Cook

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John Call Cook
1988-John Call Cook.jpg
John Call Cook, 1988
Born (1918-04-07)April 7, 1918
Afton, Wyoming, U.S.
Died October 12, 2012(2012-10-12) (aged 94)
Highland, Utah
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Geophysics, Physics, Electronics, Astronomy, and natural philosophy
Institutions Southwest Research Institute,
Teledyne Geotech
Alma mater University of Utah,
Pennsylvania State University
Thesis An Analysis of Airborne Surveying for Surface Radioactivity (1951)
Doctoral advisor B. F. Howell, Jr.
Known for Ground-penetrating radar, Crevasse Detector
Influences Carl Sagan,
Stephen Hawking

John Call Cook, PhD (April 7, 1918 – October 12, 2012) was an American geophysicist who played a crucial role in establishing the field of ground-penetrating radar and is generally regarded as a key contributor to the field.[1] Cook is also known for demonstrating that aerial surveys can map surface radioactivity, enabling much more efficient prospecting for uranium ore.[1]

During most of his professional career, Cook specialized in the techniques of remote sensing and the detection of underground objects.

Early years[edit]

John Call Cook was born on April 7, 1918 in Afton, Wyoming.

During his teens, Cook constructed various devices including a spark-gap device, a batteryless crystal radio, a six-inch telescope, and an underwater 'diving helmet' constructed of a cookie can with plastic sheet bolted and gasketed for vision, powered by a garden hose and three tire pumps ganged together.[2]



Cook initially studied at Brigham Young University then enrolled with the University of Utah to study Physics. In the Spring of 1941 Cook began work as lab assistant at the university, and graduated that same year.[3]

The war years[edit]

RadLab Group 44

As a physics major during the war, Cook was recruited to work at the Radiation Lab at MIT where he was assigned to work in the "Experimental Systems Group - 44" under Dr. James L. Lawson in the Roof Laboratory.[4] This group worked on advanced problems of radar systems, such as signal discernibility, anti-jamming, short pulses, and receiver design.[4] For some time afterward this group's experimental systems led the field in performance—its members were continually breaking new ground and extending the range of radar's capabilities.[4]

They used an S-band (10 cm wavelength) and an X-band (3 cm) set, each with several kinds of display, and later received a K-band set (1 cm) which could resolve the structure of a nearby gasholder.[4] These sets had around 300 vacuum tubes each, and 10 to 20 adjustment knobs each, and many interconnecting cables. Nearly every day a vacuum tube would fail, and they would have to trace and troubleshoot.[4]

They often tracked a B-17 bomber sent from Bedford Airfield for their use, trying variations in frequency and polarization, the use of chaff and jamming countermeasures, and trying to evaluate the use of propeller modulation signal amplitude to identify friendly versus hostile.[4]

M.I.T Rocket Research Society[edit]

Cook was elected president of the Rocket Research Society, a special-interest club, at the Radiation Lab.[5]

The American Rocket Society in New York had shut down for the duration of the war, but the M.I.T group continued development of liquid-fueled rockets. Cook built a portable test stand from a wooden box, with a thrust gauge, tanks for fuel and oxidizer, valves with long control rods, and electric ignition. John, Bob Smith, and others built rocket motors of steel, aluminum, ceramic, silver from coins, etc., using the lathes and other facilities of the M.I.T Student Model Shop, where some of the members maintained the precarious good will of the man in charge.

Some of their number managed to obtain liquid oxygen from the nearby Arthur D. Little company, which was developing a portable military "lox" generator and was dumping excess product fuming and freezing everything, into the gutter. The club hauled it to their test site in 5-gallon steel cans insulated with fiber mat. This gave their most successful test—the rocket motor roared with a ten-foot plume of flame filled with standing shock waves, with the thrust gauge off-scale for ten seconds or more. But the aluminum motor burned out its throat and set the test stand on fire, which they put out with a Pyrene hand fire extinguisher. However the carbon tetrachloride produced phosgene and chlorine gasses (they deduced), which corroded all the metal.

They still had gallons of liquid oxygen left, and so decided to make an explosion. The blast shot a board 50 feet in the air end-over-end, and embedded gravel in the chest of the fuse-lighter, even with Cook's efforts at safety. This episode was exaggerated in MIT's humor magazine,[6] where Cook was portrayed as the nonchalant "Lon Crook".

In spring 1945 they received news of the German V-2 rocket-propelled ballistic missiles striking Britain. The German Rocket Society, with their government's support, had continued the work of American Robert Goddard and were far ahead of the U.S. However, their large, successful rockets had been applied at once to military purposes. Cook was disgusted with this and so lost interest in rockets until NASA was formed. When it also developed that he would soon be leaving Cambridge, he resigned as president of the MIT Rocket Research Society and turned it over to Robert Kraichnan, who would later become prominent in relativity.


In the Fall of 1945 applied for and received a graduate assistantship at Penn State and began work on a Masters degree. Graduated in 1947.[7]


John was the first PhD in geophysics at Penn State, when he graduated in 1951.[7]

Professional life[edit]


  • US# 2,461,144 - Electrical Storage Device (memory)[8][9] Issued Feb 8, 1949.
  • US# 2,885,633 - Electrical Crevasse Detector[10][11] Issued May 5, 1959. The prototype was used in Greenland and Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year.
  • US# 3,717,864 - Periodic Event Detector System[12][13] Issued February 20, 1973.
  • US# 4,004,268 - In-line Stress/Strain Detector[14][15] Issued January 18, 1977.
  • US# 4,012,649 - Piezoelectric Stress/Strain Intrusion Detectors[16][17] Issued March 15, 1977.


Selected books and publications[edit]

John Call Cook, December 1971
  • Some Unorthodox Petroleum Exploration Methods[27][28] John Call Cook, Geophysics, Vol. 24, No. 1, p. 142-154. 1959
  • Proposed Monocycle-Pulse VHF Radar for Airborne Ice and Snow Measurement[29][30]
  • RF Electrical Properties of Bituminous Coal Samples[31][32][33][34][35] John C. Cook. Geophysics, vol. 35, December 1970, pp. 1079–1085.
  • Ground Motion from Sonic Booms[36][37][38] J. C. Cook and T. T. Goforth, Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1970), pp. 126–129, doi: 10.2514/3.44134
  • Seeing Through Rock with Radar[39][40][41][42] John C. Cook. North American Conference on Rapid Excavation and Tunneling, Chicago Illinois, June 5, 1972.
  • Experience with an Infrared Ocean-Wave Meter[43] John C. Cook, 1972. Offshore Technology Conference, Dallas Texas.
  • Semi-Remote Acoustic, Electric, and Thermal Sensing of Small Buried Nonmetallic Objects[44][45][46] John C. Cook and Joseph J. Wormser. IEEE Transactions on GeoScience Electronics, Vol. GE-11, No. 3, July 1973, pp. 135–152.
  • Radar Exploration through Rock in Advance of Mining.[47][48][49] John C. Cook. Society of Mining Engineers Transactions, December 1973, and AIME Transactions, 1973, Vol. 254.
  • Radar Transparencies of Mine and Tunnel Rocks[50][51][52] John C. Cook. Geophysics, Vol. 40, pp. 865–885, 1975.
  • Geological Radar Experiments In S.E. Australia John C. Cook, August 1976. Investigation on behalf of: BHP Mineral Exploration, BHP Collieries, Australian Iron & Steel Pty. Ltd, Clutha Development Co. Ltd, Esso Australia Ltd, Joint Coal Board, CSIRO (Mineral Physics), Bellambi Coal Co., and Macquarie University.


  1. ^ a b "American Men and Women of Science". Gale Cengage Learning. 
  2. ^ Paulson, J. R. (1935). "Ingenious Provo Youth Builds Own Telescope". Provo (Utah) Evening Herald. 
  3. ^ "ULink - Chapters and Contacts". University of Utah. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Five years at the Radiation Laboratory. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1946. OCLC 3506325. 
  5. ^ "MIT Rocket Research Society,. Massachusetts Institute of Technology,. Cambridge 39, Mass. - American Rocket Society News", Astronautics, Vol. 14, No. 60 (1944), pp. 12-13.doi: 10.2514/8.10419". Astronautics. Dec 1944. 
  6. ^ "The Voo Doo Archive Project". voodoo [at] 
  7. ^ a b "The Graduate School at Penn State". Penn State University. 
  8. ^ "Electrical Storage Device". USPTO. February 8, 1949. 
  9. ^ "Electrical Storage Device". Google Patents. February 8, 1949. 
  10. ^ "Electrical Crevasse Detector". USPTO. May 5, 1959. 
  11. ^ "Electrical Crevasse Detector". Google Patents. May 5, 1959. 
  12. ^ "Periodic Event Detector System". USPTO. February 20, 1973. 
  13. ^ "Periodic Event Detector System". Google Patents. February 20, 1973. 
  14. ^ "In-line Stress/Strain Detector". USPTO. January 18, 1977. 
  15. ^ "In-line Stress/Strain Detector". Google Patents. January 18, 1977. 
  16. ^ "Piezoelectric Stress/Strain Intrusion Detectors". USPTO. March 15, 1977. 
  17. ^ "Piezoelectric Stress/Strain Intrusion Detectors". Google Patents. March 15, 1977. 
  18. ^ "American Astronautical Society". AAS. 
  19. ^ "Society of Exploration Geophysicists". SEG. 
  20. ^ "Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society". Sigma Xi. 
  21. ^ "Sigma Pi Sigma - The Physics Honor Society". Sigma Pi Sigma. 
  22. ^ "AGU". AGU. 
  23. ^ Cook, John C. (October 1956). "AN ELECTRICAL CREVASSE DETECTOR.". , GEOPHYSICS, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 1055–1070. 
  24. ^ Cook, John C. (November 1957). "The design of a crevasse detector for polar exploration". ScienceDirect, Vol. 264, Issue 5, pp. 361–377. 
  25. ^ cited by: Evans, S. (December 7, 2012). "Polar ionospheric spread echoes and radio frequency properties of ice shelves". Journal of Geophysical Research, DOI: 10.1029/JZ066i012p04137. 
  26. ^ cited by: Kuras, O.; Beamish, D.; Meldrum, P.; Ogilvy, R. (May 2006). "Fundamentals of the capacitive resistivity technique". Geophysics Vol. 71, Issue 3. 
  27. ^ Cook, John Call (February 1959). "Some unorthodox petroleum exploration methods". Geophysics, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 142-154. 
  28. ^ cited by: Saunders, Donald F.; Davidson, Martin J. (1939–2004). "Articles and scientific papers on surface geochemical exploration for petroleum, Series 5, Box 2". University of Texas Archival Resources Online. 
  29. ^ cited by: Zirizzotti, Achille; Urbini, Stefano; Cafarella, Lili; Baskaradas, James A. (Feb 2, 2010). "Radar systems for Glaciology". Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Italy. 
  30. ^ Yurevich, Andrey (April 1, 2003). "Analysis of the characteristics of the subsurface radar frequency domain (Анализ характеристик подповерхностного радиолокатора в частотной области)". Scientific Electronic Library - The Modern Science of the Russian Federation. 
  31. ^ Cook, John C. (December 1970). "Rf electrical properties of bituminous coal samples". Geophysics December Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 1079-1085. 
  32. ^ cited by: Alvarez, Román; de Paiva, Airton C. (September 20, 2012). "Dielectric relaxations of coal and conductive impurities". Journal of Geophysical Research. 
  33. ^ cited by: Van Gestel, Jean-Paul; Stoffa, Paul L. (November 2001). "Application of Alford rotation to ground-penetrating radar data". Geophysics, Vol. 66, No. 6, pp. 1781-1792. 
  34. ^ cited by: Lytle, R. Jeffrey (November 12, 1973). "Measurement of Earth Medium Electrical Characteristics: Techniques, Results, and Applications". Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. 
  35. ^ cited by: Epp, Lawrence W.; Mittra, Raj; McCormack, Ray G. (April 1988). "Summary of Methods for Measuring Electrical Properties of Geological Strata to Estimate Electromagnetic Shielding Effectiveness". U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. 
  36. ^ Cook, J. C.; Goforth, T. T. (March 1970). "Ground motion from sonic booms". Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 126-129, doi: 10.2514/3.44134. 
  37. ^ cited by: Cates, Joseph E.; Sturtevant, Bradford (January 1, 2002). "Seismic detection of sonic booms". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 111, Issue 1, pp. 614-628. 
  38. ^ cited by: Weber, G., Technische Universität Hannover, Curt-Risch-Institut für Schwingungs- und Messtechnik, Hannover, West Germany (February 22, 1972). "Sonic boom exposure effects II.1: Structures and terrain". Journal of Sound and Vibration, Vol. 20, Issue 4, Pages 505–509. 
  39. ^ Cook, John C. (January 1, 1997). "Seeing Through Rock With Radar". Society of Mining Engineers Transactions. 
  40. ^ ++cited by: Fourie, G. A., Laboratory for Advanced Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa (October 1988). "Literature survey on the advance detection of dykes in underground coal mine workings". Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee. 
  41. ^ cited by: Daemen, J. J. K.; Fairhurst, C. (1972). "Tunnel Support Loading Caused By Rock Failures". Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference Proceedings - Chapter 31 - Ground Support. 
  42. ^ "Setting the standard for geophysical surveys in site investigation". Geological Society, London, Engineering Geology Special Publications, 12:3-34, doi:10.1144/GSL.ENG.1997.012.01.01. 1997. 
  43. ^ Cook, John C., Teledyne Geotech (May 1–3, 1972). "Experience With an Infrared Ocean-Wave Meter". Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, Texas, No. OTC 1512, ISBN 978-1-55563-683-8. 
  44. ^ Cook, John C., Teledyne Geotech Co., Dallas, Texas; Wormser, Joseph J. (July 1973). "Semi-Remote Acoustic, Electric, and Thermal Sensing of Small Buried Nonmetallic Objects". IEEE Transactions on Geoscience Electronics, Vol. 11, Issue 3, pp. 135-152. 
  45. ^ cited by: Martin, J. S.; Larson, G. D.; Scott, Jr., W. R. (August 3, 2006). "An investigation of surface-contacting sensors for the seismic detection of buried landmines". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 120, Issue 5, pp. 2676-2685. 
  46. ^ cited by: Park, Young-Jin Jin, Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute, Euiwang, South Korea; Kim, Kwan-Ho H.; Cho, Sung-Bae; Yoo, Dong-Wook; Youn, Dong-Gi; Jeong, Young-Kyung (October 2004). "Buried small objects detected by UWB GPR". IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, Vol. 19, Issue: 10, pp. 3-6. 
  47. ^ Cook, John C. (June 1973). "Radar Exploration Through Rock In Advance Of Mining". Transactions of the Society of Mining Engineers, Vol. 254, pp. 1406. 
  48. ^ cited by: Patterson, Jeffrey E.; Cook, Frederick A. (2000). "Successful Application of Ground Penetrating Radar in the Exploration of Gem Tourmaline Pegmatites of Southern California". Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. 
  49. ^ cited by: Annan, A. P.; Davis, J. L. (1997). "Ground Penetrating Radar - Coming of Age at Last!!". Proceedings of Exploration 97: Fourth Decennial International Conference on Mineral Exploration, edited by A.G. Gubins, pp. 515-522. 
  50. ^ Cook, J. C. (October 1975). "Radar transparencies of mine and tunnel rocks". Geophysics, Vol. 40, No. 5, pp. 865-885. 
  51. ^ cited by: Beres, Jr., Milan; Haeni, F. P. (May–June 1991). "Application of Ground-Penetrating-Radar Methods in Hydrogeologic Studies". Ground Water, Vol. 29, No. 3. 
  52. ^ cited by: Singh, K. K. K.; Chouhan, R. K. S. (2002). "Exploration of underground strata conditions for a traffic bypass tunnel using ground penetrating radar system – a case study". Geotechnical & Geological Engineering, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 81-87. 

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