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Herbert E. Ives

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Herbert Eugene Ives
Ives circa 1913
Born(1882-07-31)July 31, 1882
DiedNovember 13, 1953(1953-11-13) (aged 71)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania
SpouseMabel Lorenz (m. 1908)
ChildrenBarbara Ives Beyer
Kenneth Ives
Ronald Ives
Parent(s)Frederic Eugene Ives
Mary Olmstead
Engineering career
Projectsfacsimile transmission
lenticular 3D photography
AwardsEdward Longstreth Medal (1907, 1915 and 1919)
Frederic Ives Medal (1937)
Medal for Merit (1948)

Herbert Eugene Ives (July 31, 1882 – November 13, 1953) was a scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century.[1] He is best known for the 1938 Ives–Stilwell experiment, which provided direct confirmation of special relativity's time dilation,[2] although Ives himself did not accept special relativity, and argued instead for an alternative interpretation of the experimental results.[3] Ives has been described as "the most authoritative opponent of relativity in United States between the late 1930s and the early 1950s."[4]


Ives was born on July 31, 1882, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Frederic Eugene Ives and Mary Olmstead. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and the Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated in 1908. He married Mabel Lorenz in the same year and they had three children.

He wrote a 1920 book on aerial photography while an Army reserve officer in the aviation section.[5] He was president of the Optical Society of America (now Optica) from 1924 to 1925.[6] At the Bell Labs he became its Director of Electro-Optical Research.[7]

Like his father Frederic E. Ives, Herbert was an expert on color photography. In 1924, he transmitted and reconstructed the first color fax, a natural-color photograph of silent film star Rudolph Valentino in period costume, using red, green and blue color separations he photographed on the set of Valentino's film Monsieur Beaucaire.[8]

On April 7, 1927, Ives demonstrated 185-line long-distance television, transmitting live video images of then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover via AT&T's experimental station 3XN in Whippany, New Jersey, allowing media reporters to both see and communicate with Hoover.[9][10] By 1930, his two-way television-telephone system (called an ikonophone – Greek: 'image-sound' ) was in regular experimental use.[11][12] Bell Labs' large New York City research facility devoted years of research and development through the 1930s, led by Dr. Ives with his team of more than 200 scientists, engineers and technicians. Bell Labs intended to develop videotelephony and television for both telecommunications and broadcast entertainment purposes.[13] Ongoing research into combined audio and video telephones was extended by Bell Labs far past Ives' tenure at a cost of over US$500 million, eventually resulting in the deployment of AT&T's futuristic Picturephone.[14]

Also like his father, Ives was interested in autostereoscopic 3D image display methods. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, during his tenure at Bell Labs, he worked on developing procedures and apparatus for producing what he called "parallax panoramagrams", the type of 3D images now familiar from the lenticular 3D postcards and similar novelties that became popular in the mid-1960s and are still being made. He published several articles about his work in this field in the Journal of the Optical Society of America and was granted numerous patents for his inventions.

Following the philosophy of Hendrik Lorentz, he attempted to demonstrate the physical reality of relativistic effects by means of logical arguments and experiments. He is best known for conducting the Ives–Stilwell experiment,[15] which provided direct confirmation of special relativity's time dilation. Ives himself regarded his experiment as a proof of the existence of the ether and hence, as he suggested, a disproof of the theory of relativity.[15] However, this experiment was believed to be the best support for relativity. [16] He was discouraged by the reaction of the scientific community that had interpreted his experiment in the way opposite to his expectations. But he insisted his view that experiment showed the variation of the clock rate with motion indicated the existence of ether.[17]

He then turned to the theory and published a set of articles,[18][19][20][21] where he described relativistic phenomena in terms of a single system of coordinates, which he mistakenly thought would disprove relativity.[22] This paradoxical aspect of Ives's work was described by his friend, the noted physicist H. P. Robertson, who contributed the following summary of Ives's attitude toward special relativity in a biography of Ives:

Ives' work in the basic optical field presents a rather curious anomaly, for although he considered that it disproved the special theory of relativity, the fact is that his experimental work offers one of the most valuable supports for this theory, and his numerous theoretical investigations are quite consistent with it ... his deductions were in fact valid, but his conclusions were only superficially in contradiction with the relativity theory—their intricacy and formidable appearance were due entirely to Ives' insistence on maintaining an aether framework and mode of expression. I ... was never able to convince him that since what he had was in fact indistinguishable in its predictions from the relativity theory within the domain of physics, it was in fact the same theory ...

He was an avid coin collector and served as president of the American Numismatic Society from 1942 to 1946.

Ives died on November 13, 1953, in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.[1]

Awards and honors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Herbert Ives, Pioneer In TV, Dies. Researcher on Electron-Optics Developed 3-D Photography, Wirephoto Transmission". New York Times. November 15, 1953. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
  2. ^ Robertson, H. P. (1949). "Postulate versus Observation in the Special Theory of Relativity" (PDF). Reviews of Modern Physics. 21 (3): 378–382. Bibcode:1949RvMP...21..378R. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.21.378.
  3. ^ Halliday and Resnick, "Physics", p 931, 3rd edition, 1978, John Wiley & Sons
  4. ^ R. Lalli, Confirming special relativity in spite of himself: the origin of the Ives-Stilwell experiment, In: R. Pisano, D. Capecchi, A. Lukesova (Eds.), Physics, astronomy and engineering: critical problems in the history of science; International 32nd Congress for the SISFA–Italian Society of Historians of Physics and Astronomy, Roma 2012, Italy (p. 298-304). Siauliai, Lithuania: Scientia Socialis Press (2013).
  5. ^ Herbert E. Ives, Airplane Photography, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1920.
  6. ^ "Past Presidents of the Optical Society of America". Optical Society of America. Archived from the original on January 20, 2009.
  7. ^ Contributors To This Issue in Bell Labs Quarterly, April 1932, Vol. 11, p. 78.
  8. ^ Sipley, Louis Walton (1951). A Half Century of Color. Macmillan.
  9. ^ "Radio Board Tests Television Process. Finds Demonstration Satisfactory and Will Keep Top Air Band for It". New York Times. April 28, 1927. Retrieved January 11, 2014. A demonstration of television was given here today for the benefit of Admiral Bullard and the other members of the Radio Commission by Dr. Herbert E. Ives, inventor of an American process, and Dr. Frank B. Jewett, Vice President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. ...
  10. ^ "Hoover joins 1st American demo of long-distance TV, April 7, 1927". April 7, 2019.
  11. ^ D.N. Carson. "The Evolution of Picturephone Service", Bell Laboratories Record, Bell Labs, October 1968, pp. 282–291.
  12. ^ "Washington Hails The Test: Operator There Puts Through the Calls as Scientists Watch". New York Times. April 8, 1927. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  13. ^ Herbert E. Ives, BairdTelevision.com website. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  14. ^ Videophone Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved April 13, 2009 from Encyclopædia Britannica Online;
  15. ^ a b H.E.Ives, G.R.Stilwell, An experimental study of the rate of a moving atomic clock, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 28, Iss. 7, pp. 215–226 (1938).
  16. ^ "Einstein Hails 'Proof'. Dr. Ives Provides Best Support for Relativity, He Says". New York Times. April 27, 1938. Retrieved January 8, 2014. The experiment of Dr. Herbert E. Ives of the Bell Telephone Laboratories with an 'atomic clock' which verifies the existence of ether in space is the most direct proof yet brought forth in support of the theory of relativity, Dr. Albert Einstein declared tonight. In an interview at his home, 12 Mercer Street, he said ...
  17. ^ H.E.Ives, The measurement of velocity with atomic clocks, Science, Vol. 91, Issue 2352, pp. 79–84 (1940)
  18. ^ H.E.Ives, Historical note on the rate of moving atomic clock, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 37, Iss. 10, pp. 810–813 (1947).
  19. ^ H.E.Ives, The measurement of the velocity of light by signals sent in one direction, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 38, Iss. 10, 879–884 (1948).
  20. ^ H.E.Ives, Lorentz-type transformations as derived from performable rod and clock operations, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 39, Iss. 9, pp. 757–761 (1949).
  21. ^ H.E.Ives, Extrapolation from Michelson-Morley experiment, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 40, Iss. 4, pp. 185–191 (1950).
  22. ^ "Anti-Relativity in Action: The Scientific Activity of Herbert E. Ives between 1937 and 1953", Roberto Lalli, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, Vol. 43, No. 1 (February 2013), pp. 41–104, University of California Press
  23. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Edward Longstreth Medals for Herbert E. Ives". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on August 18, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  24. ^ Frederic Ives Medal / Quinn Prize, website of The Optical Society (formerly Optical Society of America, OSA). Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  25. ^ "Pay Honor to Frederic E. Ives". New York Times. July 23, 1937. Retrieved January 11, 2014. The memory of Frederic Eugene Ives, inventor of half-tone processes used in ... Herbert E. Ives, son of the inventor, presented to the institute the original patent ...
  26. ^ Dean Turner and Richard Hazelett, eds., The Einstein Myth and the Ives Papers: A Counter-Revolution in Physics, Pasadena: Hope Publishing (1979).
  27. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved October 18, 2023.
  28. ^ "Herbert E. Ives". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved October 18, 2023.

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