Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff

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Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff
Born January 27, 1897
Samara, Russia
Died May 2, 1992 (1992-05-03) (aged 95)
Hightstown, New Jersey
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields mathematician and electromagnetism theorist
Institutions Bell Telephone Laboratories
Alma mater Columbia University
Notable awards IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award from the Institute of Radio Engineers, Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal

Dr. Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff (January 27, 1897 – May 2, 1992), who published as S. A. Schelkunoff, was a distinguished mathematician and electromagnetism theorist who made noted contributions to antenna theory.


Schelkunoff was born in Samara, Russia in 1897, attended the University of Moscow before being drafted in 1917. He crossed Siberia into Manchuria and then Japan before settling into Seattle in 1921. There he received bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from the State College of Washington, now the University of Washington, and in 1928 received his Ph.D. from Columbia University for his dissertation On Certain Properties of the Metrical and Generalized Metrical Groups in Linear Spaces of n Dimension.

After receiving his degree, Schelkunoff joined Western Electric's research wing, which became Bell Laboratories. In 1933 he and Sally P. Mead began analysis of waveguide propagation discovered analytically by their colleague George C. Southworth. Their analysis uncovered the transverse modes. Schelkunoff appears to have been the first to notice the important practical consequences of the fact that attenuation in the TE01 mode decays inversely with the 3/2 power of the frequency. In 1935 he and his colleagues reported that coaxial cable, then new, could transmit television pictures or up to 200 telephone conversations.

During his 35-year career at Bell Labs, Schelkunoff's research included radar, electromagnetic wave propagation in the atmosphere and in microwave guides, short-wave radio, broad-band antennas, and grounding. He ultimately served as assistant director of mathematical research and assistant vice president for university relations, taught for five years at Columbia University, where he retired in 1965, and served as a consultant on magnetrons for the United States Naval Station at San Diego.

Schelkunoff received 15 patents, the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award from the Institute of Radio Engineers (1942), and the Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal (1949). He died on May 2, 1992, in Hightstown, New Jersey.

Selected works[edit]

  • "Electromagnetic Waves in Conducting Tubes", Phys. Rev. 52, 1078 - 1078, November 1937.
  • "On Diffraction and Radiation of Electromagnetic Waves", Phys. Rev. 56, 308, 1939.
  • Electromagnetic waves, New York : D. Van Nostrand Company, 1943.
  • Advanced antenna theory, New York : John Wiley & Sons, 1952.
  • Antennas: Theory and Practice, Sergei A. Schelkunoff and Harald T. Friis, Bell Telephone Laboratories, New York : John Wiley & Sons, 1952.
  • «Electromagnetic Fields», Blaisdell Publishing Company/A Division of Random House, 1963.


  • "S. A. Schelkunoff, 95, Researcher And Developer of Coaxial Cable", obituary by Bruce Lambert, The New York Times, May 17, 1992.
  • John Bray, Innovation and the Communications Revolution, The Institution of Electrical Engineers, 2002, pages 220-221. ISBN 0-85296-218-5.
  • "Sergei Alexander Schelkunoff", IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 5, no. 3, page 172, July 1957.
  • RootsWeb Social Security information