Rudolf Kompfner (May 16, 1909 – December 3, 1977) was an Austrian-born engineer and physicist, best known as the inventor of the traveling-wave tube (TWT).
Kompfner was born in Vienna to Jewish parents. He was originally trained as an architect and after receiving his university degree in 1933 he moved to England (due to the rise of anti-Semitism) where he worked as an architect until 1941. However, he had a strong interest in physics and electronics, and after being briefly detained by the British as an enemy alien at the start of World War II he was recruited to work in a secret microwave vacuum tube research program at the University of Birmingham. While there, Kompfner invented the TWT in 1943. After the war he became a British citizen, continued working for the Admiralty as a scientist, and also studied physics at the University of Oxford, receiving his PhD in 1951.
Late that year Dr. Kompfner was recruited to Bell Labs in the United States by John R. Pierce, where they together developed the TWT into an important element of the communications age. He received the IEEE Medal of Honor for his invention, and in 1974 received the National Medal of Science.
Kompfner died on December 3, 1977 in Stanford, California.
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