Walt Maxwell, W2DU (SK), Wrote Reflections


M. Walter Maxwell, W2DU, died July 3, 2012 at his home in DeLand, Florida of natural causes. He was 93. Walt was best known in the Amateur Radio realm for his ground-breaking series of articles, “Another Look at Reflections.” Published in QST in seven parts from 1973 to 1976, the series explained in plain English concepts such as line loss, SWR, baluns and antenna tuners. The articles were later compiled into a book, Reflections: Transmission Lines and Antennas, that included additional material on matching networks, antennas and the Smith Chart. It was first published by the ARRL in 1990 and went through several editions. Later editions were published by Worldradio and CQ Communications.

He is survived by his spouse, Jean Binkley Mayhew, three sons, William W. Maxwell of DeLand, Florida, Richard A. Maxwell of Marietta, Georgia, and John R. Maxwell of Gainesville, Florida, and one daughter, Susan M. Glasnapp of Delray Beach, Florida.

The following biography, from 1990, is taken from Walt’s own summary of his life’s work that appeared in Reflections:

M. Walter Maxwell, W2DU, is an ARRL Technical Adviser (TA) in the specialty field of antennas and transmission lines. Walt was born in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1919, and grew up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. A life member of both the ARRL and QCWA, he became W8KHK in 1933, and has been licensed continuously ever since. He entered Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant in 1935, earning a BS degree in mathematics and physics. After college, he joined the announcing and technical staff of WMFJ, Daytona Beach, and was assigned the call W4GWZ.

With the FCC from late 1940 to 1944, his professional antenna experience included participation in building antenna farms at monitoring stations in Hawaii and Allegan, Michigan. Then until 1946 he was a navy instructor of Aviation Electronic Technicians at Corpus Christi, Texas. While in the navy he played trumpet in the big band of Alvino Rey, W6UK.

As the result of an interview with RCA’s Clarence D. Tuska, cofounder of the ARRL, Walt joined the RCA Laboratories (the David Sarnoff Research Center) in Princeton, New Jersey as an engineer in 1949, later becoming a charter member of its new Astro-Electronics Division. From 1960 until retirement in 1980 he was in charge of Astro’s Space Center Antenna Laboratory and Test Range. More than 30 earth-orbiting spacecraft utilize antennas that were designed solely by Walt, include ECHO I and all early TIROS-ESSA-NOAA weather satellites. He assisted in the design of many other spacecraft antenna systems, including data-link antennas on TIROS-M and TIROS-N, and on RCA’s SATCOM communications satellites. He also performed design work on the Search and Rescue (SAR) system antennas flying on TIROS-N, which are used worldwide for relaying signals from emergency locator transmitters (ELT) aboard aircraft in distress. He assisted in designing the moon-to-earth TV dish antenna used on the moon on Apollo’s lunar rover – the moon buggy. He engineered ground-based antenna systems at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, for prelaunch checkout of the TIROS and RELAY spacecraft. In addition he had total engineering responsibility for the receivers, transmitters and antennas of the five ground stations spread across the US, used in Project SCORE, the orbiting Atlas rocket that broadcast President Eisenhower’s “Christmas Message From Space” in December 1958.

Having also been licensed as W8VJR and W2FCY, Walt has held the Extra Class license since 1967, and the call W2DU since 1968. Every full-time position in his career resulted from association with Amateur Radio. Now retired in DeLand, Florida, he has served as antenna consultant for AMSAT, as a member of the FCC’s advisory committee for WARC-79, and a trustee for K2BSA at National Headquarters, Boy Scouts of America. A three-generation family of hams, his father was W8YNG, and two of his sons are Bill, AG2B [now W2WM], and Rick, WB4GNR [now W8KHK].