Written in 1957
I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, on February 8th, 1893. My parents were of Uruguayan nationality and of Spanish descent. My family has dwelt in Uruguay for several generations, so we are an old family in this country. The families of both my father and mother always consisted of honest people of good reputation in all senses; therefore, I descend from people who were morally good. My father was a cultivated man of noble character. My mother, also was a very intelligent person. My surname is most certainly of french origin. Among my ancestors there was a French philosopher: Victor–Mary–Joseph– Ludovic Carrau, born in Paris in 1842.
When I was six, we regularly received the "Scientific American", a magazine printed in both English and Spanish; and I was very much interested in these magazines, although I did not understand a great deal of the English issue. Even today I still have bound volume containing all issues for the year 1899.
At that time I always had the habit of asking: "Why?" I always had the habit of inquiring into the "why" of things… so much so that my aunt, María Josefa Ponce de León, presented me with a book entitled: "The why´s of Little Susan".
During a voyage from Europe back to Montevideo in 1906, we became acquainted with a Spanish priest, Father Berenguer. In a letter to me, that I still keep, he asks about my "why´s" and inquires whether I am already a follower of the "philosophy of why". He advises that this philosophy, properly directed, can produce positive results.
In the year 1901 we traveled to Europe and we remained in France for nearly six years. We spent most of our time in Paris, studying for a few months at Collège Stanislas and at l'École des Roches from 1902 to 1905. This latter school was located in the country near the town of Verneuil in the department of Eure, at 118 km. west of Paris. The school was founded by M. Edmond Demolins, who was the author of a famous book, “Anglo-Saxon Superiority: To what it is due”. It was only natural that there I began to develop a great admiration for the Anglo-Saxons, especially for the United States.
And, if this was not enough, I also used to read the stories of Jules Verne — for example, “The Master of the World” — and many others whose events took place in the United States, the country of inventors. It is not strange, then, that my golden dream was to make a trip to that country as, during the holidays, our trips were limited to England and the European Continent.
During the course of time, my love for the United States only grew and grew, because of several factors. On one hand, my scientific reading of lectures concerning Edison, and on the other hand the occasional manifestations of that country — whether it be the visits of ships of the Navy, anchored in the Bay of Villefranche, or whether it be the acrobats, who were capable of "looping the loop" on bicycles in the Olympia Theater in Paris.
During our stay in that city, my brother and I often went to the Garden of Luxembourg and one time we came upon two American boys who, upon learning that we were South Americans, shook our hands and greeted us warmly. In that garden, there was a large fountain where the boys played with toy ships. Once, they sailed a model steamship that worked very well and that pleased me greatly.
One day I was presented with a large volume on electricity by George Dary, translated from the French and also a handbook on electricity. Both books were in Spanish and with them I spent the purest pleasures of my life. The more I read and the more secrets that were disclosed, those things that had appeared to be most complicated turned out to be axioms. Already, I worked on inventions of my own; some of which were perhaps absurd, but from that time on I continued to exert my intellect in that branch of creative imagination.
While in Paris, I was given a box of electrical experiments and, with the background provided by the technical books, which I read avidly, and the scientific lectures at school, I became quite capable of dealing with electrical and mechanical questions. I also experimented at that time a miniature wireless telegraph station, which was capable of ringing a bell at quite a distance away, in other rooms of the house.
At that time there was much discussion in Paris about the discovery of radium and radioactivity by the Curies, and my mother, who attended conferences at the Sorbonne, heard several very interesting lectures on radioactivity by Becquerel, in person. I spent much time reading about radioactivity although, at that time, I had a meager knowledge of the constitution of matter. I subscribed to a magazine called "Le Radium", of which I still have a sample copy.
L´Ecole des Roches was a very modern school and there were numerous students who made inventions, building models, which were shown at the annual expositions of pupils. There, the sciences were taught at a very early age and, although I was usually inattentive in classes and had poor grades in a majority of my courses, I ranked at the top of the class in the sciences. This is confirmed by the attached documents, which indicate that I am very well endowed in the sciences and that I have real aptitude for them.
At that time, the famous Santos Dumont conducted experiments with his airship in Paris, and I witnessed his operation of the dirigible on one occasion over the Bois de Boulogne. Following this incident, my mother bought a balloon for me, constructed of rubber and of aerodynamic shape with a very light car. The propeller was operated by a few rubber bands and the balloon was inflated with a standard hydrogen apparatus.
The school had several houses where the students lived, and we resided in the House of le Vallon. There was situated an electrical plant which provided power and lighting for the entire school and I enjoyed watching the power plant in operation. The engineer, whose name was Narbonne, befriended me and permitted me to enter when I wished, although it was forbidden.
During some holidays we took a trip to Switzerland and we spent some time in Interlaken. At one of the places there was a telescope and I paid a fee to be permitted to look through it. At night I could see Saturn with its ring, the moon and the other planets. During daylight I could observe the Jungfrau Mountain , more than 30 miles away, all covered with snow. I could also distinguish some climbers making their way through the snow, and some chamois.
Completing our studies in Europe, we returned to Montevideo in spite of the desire of M. Demolins that we remain in the school. We arrived in Montevideo in 1906, and in 1907 I enrolled in the Colegio Seminario, remaining there as a student for many years. But there the sciences were not stressed as they were in Europe nor were they presented so comprehensively, resulting in an inability to maintain my interest.
At Colegio Seminario, in 1907, I was a classmate of four brothers, all sons of the American Consul in Montevideo, one of whom was later to become the Archbishop of Philadelphia — Monsgr. John F. O´Hara. From that time I have maintained a great friendship with Monsgr. O´Hara. I accompanied one of my teachers on frequent visits to Mr. O´Hara, the American Consul.
During all of the subsequent years during which I reminded in Montevideo I continued to read the english version of the "Scientific American" — the Spanish version having been discontinued. I also spent much time reading "La Nature", "La Science et la Vie", and other scientific periodicals and books in english, spanish and french. And I read with regularity and a great deal of interest every article in the newspapers dealing with science. I was able to assimilate and file away in my memory all of the scientific information which came to my attention. I was not so strong in the other branches of learning, although I was capable of writing good literary works and could speak french with the same fluency with which I spoke spanish.
Later, I obtained patents for several of my inventions, these patents being obtained in the United States and Europe as well as South America. The first patent that I obtained from the United States (number 1,078,414 issued on November 11th, 1913), referred to an umbrella and was of little importance.
Although my personal income permitted me to remain a student as long as I wished, without the necessity of working for another party, I decided in 1917 to enter the employ of the Montevideo packinghouse of Swift Company. There I was assigned the post of project engineering. I was assigned the problem of designing an automatic machine which would be capable of filling cans with broth for the "Conserva Francesa", as the allied nations were at that time at war with Germany and Central Empires. I remained with the Swift Company for some time, and I did accomplish the design of the desired automatic canning machine.
Before my arrival to the Swift Company, there were already very primitive machines manually operated. These machines handled cans which were partially filled with meat and which were closed with a metal cover which was soldered in place, such lid had a small hole in the center. The work of the machine consisted of filling the interstices of the meat with a thick, gelatinous broth that was introduced through the hole in the cover and which became solid when sufficiently cool. In this way, the meat was surrounded by a solid, savory gelatine. This machine was manually operated, consisting of a table which could be raised or lowered by means of a pedal and upon which was fixed a tank of warm gelatine. Below, the tank had six funnels or injectors which coincided exactly with the openings in the lids of six properly aligned cans. Rubber washers were fixed to the injectors to provide a sealed connection between the funnels and the cans.
The first operations consisted of producing a vacuum both in the tank and in the cans. The second operation consisted of letting the broth go down into the cans, filling them. Both operations were governed by manual valves and there was a vacuometer on the tank to guide the operator.
The amount of broth for the six cans was measured by the machine but, because the vacuums were never perfect, the cans were usually only half–filled and the remaining broth was sprayed over the floor.
Therefore, large trays had been placed upon the floor to recover this broth. In addition, there were some women employees who completed filling the cans individually with broth under pressure.
When the assignment of the task of designing the automatic machine was first made, it was contingent upon my following the instructions of my superior, Mr. Lodge. The machine was then fabricated at the Swift Company were a complete mechanical shop and foundry were maintained. This machine worked fairly well but it was a little too slow; it was designed to fill ten cans at one time and was composed of a fixed table and two conveyors — one of which carried the cans to the table, and one of which withdrew the cans from the table at the other side. There was a barrier which stopped the cans when they arrived at the machine. The movements of the conveyors were alternating — that is, they moved at times and at other times remained motionless. During the latter part of the sequence, a bar pushed the cans laterally from the conveyor to the table. This bar had "fingers" which separated the cans at a uniform distance to coincide with the distances separating the injectors of the tank.
The incoming cans pushed the filled cans from the table onto the other conveyor, which in turn transported the filled cans to the welding machine, where the hole in the cover would be sealed. Incidentally, during the filling operation, the tank was lowered instead of the table being elevated, and the operations were performed automatically.
Later, after resigning from my post of the packinghouse, I designed another machine, which is depicted in the enclosed photograph, and this one functioned much more rapidly. I was paid by the packinghouse for the right to utilize my patent. After that, the packinghouse obtained another patent based on my machine; the new patent consisted only of multiplying my machine by ten, resulting in ten channels of cans to be filled, instead of one. This latter machine was manually operated, although still utilizing the parts that permitted a quick filling of the cans.
Later, I sold my patent to Frigorífica Uruguaya (Compañía Sansinena), another packing company.
My machine differed from the previous one constructed under the supervision on Mr. Lodge, in that all dispensable operations were eliminated, reducing the machine to the most simple expression. A single conveyor was used and the movement was constant. The bar with the fingers was eliminated, as well as the preliminary vacuum in the tank and the cans. Moreover, the injectors were provided with retention valves which eliminated the losing of breth. These valves opened themselves when the tank was lowered and the stems were pressed against the cans — sealed in that position by rubber washers. To replace the lateral bar system, which permitted the cans to be filled in groups of ten, I conceived the idea of an "escapement" for ten cans at once, through which I obtained the same results with a single conveyor. I discovered that the previous separation of the cans at a uniform distance was unnecessary since the same result was achieved by pushing one can against the other along the channel. And I verified that the cans could be filled completely with liquid by means of successive injections, eliminating the need for a vacuum. The value of the first of the above ideas was borne out in practical usage, but, unfortunately, the second idea was not completely successful, since the liquid injected under pressure had a tendency to contain air bubbles which soon transformed themselves into proliferation centers of micro–organisms.
In the automotive industry, since I was a resident of Uruguay, I attacked the problems of new concepts in accordance with the stage of development of the industry in this country — although many of the problems attacked by me had already been resolved in more advanced countries.
In 1911 I conceived the idea of a valve on the automobile engine, to provide air for the tires by means of one of the cylinders. I wrote to patent agents in many foreign countries but soon discovered that there was already patented a device similar to my own.
I also devised an automobile horn which would sound automatically at each regular intersection.
I developed several ideas to avoid punctures of the tires.
I invented and solved theoretically the problem of putting brakes on all four wheels of the car, many years before its adoption by the industry.
I invented a talking horn for autos which shouted: "Cuidado" ("Careful"). About that time (1920) I maintained correspondence with Dr. Dayton C. Miller, well known scientist of the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio, after having studied with great interest several works on acoustics by this learned author. Some of his writings were of great value to me in my experiments. At that time the electronic amplification of sounds was well known but I was looking for a mechanical amplification of the indented type, that was used then in the automobile horns. For that purpose I used a zinc disc, cut or embossed in relief by the photoengraving process. The resulting record, which I still keep along with its turntable axis, is about 20 inches in diameter. The voice was printed by means of a ray of light printed upon a photographic film cut in the "dark room" in a circular shape. The ray of light fell near the border of the film, after having been reflected by a minute mirror fastened eccentrically upon a vibrating mica sheet. The vibrations of the plate moved the luminous dot upon the film transversely to the trajectory, resulting in a wavy line upon the developed film, dark, upon a transparent background. That film served the purpose of obtaining the groove on the zinc plate. The length of the stroke was only one revolution, since at the end of the revolution a shutter, driven by hand, closed the passage of the luminous ray.
The turntable had a protruding point striking at each revolution with a feather of aluminum, fixed at its base, which sounded at the completion of each revolution. After various trials I had settled upon a speed of 167 r.p.m for the disc, each revolution therefore requiring slightly more than three tenths of one second — time enough to enunciate the word "Cuidado". The word was repeated at each revolution, for an indefinite number of times. The disc was driven by an electric motor started by a push–button. During the acceleration and deceleration of the disc the distorted voice was kept silent by stopping the acoustical bell of the horn with a soundproofing plug of cotton or wool.
Since the groove protruded from the surface of the disc it was necessary to use two parallel needles, separated by the width of the groove. The vibrating needles activated the cone of a loudspeaker by means of an extremely light connecting rod that was practically without inertia. The stem was welded by one terminal to the cone and by the other terminal to the assembly of the two needles.
As a source of light for the printing of the sound I first used an arc – light, but because of the alternating current the stroke was not continuous. I then tried storage batteries set up in series and although the result was better, I preferred the use of sunlight for a more intense and neater result.
The improvement of the suspension systems of vehicles, particularly autos, absorbed much of my time and was carried through to its solution by my usual means of procedure — much meditation and little experimentation. I was confident that the suspension system could be improved to a very high degree. Phonographs that were commonly used many years ago, when I was experimenting with suspension systems, consisted of a crank and a turntable united by a steel spring. One rough movement of the crank, imitating the jars and jolts of a vehicle, was not transmitted in any way to the turntable. Instead, the turntable continued to turn with the same regularity. As the crank and the turntable constitute essentially two parts to the frame and the wheels of a vehicle, united by a spring of some length, I concluded that a good "deadening" of suspended parts depended upon the extension of the vertical course of the suspending parts and therefore on the movement and length of the spring so long as the suspensory power is sufficient. That is to say, taking for granted that the suspensory power is sufficient. I had so much confidence in the improvement of the suspension system that I conceived the idea of using solid tires to combat the problem of frequent punctures — and I was confident that the vehicle could retain its quiet riding qualities in spite of such solid tires.
The first principle I discovered for good suspension was as follows: so far as the suspension is concerned, it consists of two elementary parts — the suspensory parts and the suspend parts. For the good suspension, a primary requirement is that the weight of the suspensory assemblage be as little as possible in relation to the weight of the suspended assemblage. For the above reason, when an automobile is well loaded, its riding qualities are superior to those when it is empty. For the same reason, the pneumatic tire, whose treads are much lighter than the weight of the wheel and the remainder of the vehicle, contributes so efficiently to the good riding qualities. Moreover, for the elastic elements, I always preferred the pneumatic springs over those of steel or other material.
I conceived a suspension system in which the axis and its wheels at both extremities were attached to the frame by a single blade instead of the usual multiple blades. The purpose of this single blade was not to insure the vertical suspension of the car since it had little resistance to flexion. Instead, I intended to achieve with the single blade the more horizontal firmness of the axis and its assemblage and to utilize a pneumatic "deadener" (in the shape of a bellows, for example) to insure the vertical suspension.
Subsequently, I have verified that a similar system has been adopted for buses, which enjoy a very good riding quality. My son, Enrique, who know of my suspension system and who knows a great deal about automobiles, was the first to inform me of the new suspension of the busses.
Another principle that I discovered was that, all other conditions being equal, the efficiency of the suspension system varied in direct ratio to the number of wheels, although the number of wheels would need to be limited for practical purposes. I first discovered this when I noticed the excellent riding qualities of an eight–wheeled railroad car, far superior to the jolting and jarring of the four–wheeled cars.
Aside from the above, even in the event that only four wheels were used, I felt that all wheels should be motive and directive.
I conceived the idea of automobiles mounted upon two bogies one at the front and one at the rear (similar to the railroad cars with eight wheels mounted upon two bogies). These ideas might seem extravagant today, since the automobiles have acquired a more or less standard appearance and since this construction would be more burdensome than the present one.
Contrary to the standards subsequently adopted for the automobile, I had the idea of adopting rather large but lightweight wheels, not knowing that the pavement of roads would be improved to such a high degree.
An ulterior improvement on my car was its life saving bumpers (a subject pursued with varied success by other inventors, although never adopted by the industry).
Moreover, as I can see from my old documents I eliminated the radiator, using only the air as a refrigerating medium. At about that time the Franklin car, which had no radiator and whose motor was air–cooled, won several races.
The carburetor which I conceived converted the fuel to gas before utilizing it.
Since the autos at that time did not have radio receivers, I had the idea of installing a musical instrument activated by a roll of perforated paper like the automatic piano. However, I replaced the piano with a small reed harmonium, operated by air.
Among my innovations that preceded later general adoption by the industry were the aerodynamic shape of the auto body and a filtered air – intake.
At that time, in Uruguay, although there were mechanical shops for the repair of autos, and stores that specialized in the sale and repair of pneumatic tires, there were no service stations and gas was still sold in five gallon cans. The method used to fill the tank with gas was very primitive and a great deal of gasoline was lost through spilling during this troublesome process. In addition, a large funnel was necessary and the driver generally had none. I had the idea of a small funnel fixed to the inlet of the tank. Furthermore, when applying the can to the funnel, the former was pierced by a punch in the latter. I am enclosing a copy of the American patent 1,488,377 for this invention. In addition, I obtained patents in many countries of Europe and the Americas. But, in spite of the fact that it worked well, it had no commercial success, because of the spread of the service stations in those foreign countries.
I also made other models of the punching funnels, in which the funnel was applied, to the can and then the tube of the funnel was introduced into the intake of the tan along with the attached can.
In 1924, I presented my punching funnel to the Ford Motor Company, in Dearborn and was informed that the company would not care to adopt it as standard equipment; however, they advised that I could manufacture the funnel independently and sell it as an attachment to their cars.
At the same epoch, I worked on a simple and economical method for the prevention of accidents at railroad grade crossings and I presented my idea to the Illinois Department of Public Works, Division of Highways, in Springfield.
My invention consisted of "curtains" which closed the view of the tracks from the highway so that the drivers could not become distracted and ignore the approaching crossing. They were also obliged to slow down almost to a stop before crossing the tracks. The curtain consisted of hanging steel cables of thin diameter, placed a few inches apart, and kept in taut vertical position by the weight of steel balls at the lower ends.
In view of the interest evinced by the Department of Public Works, with the assistance of Miguel Arrau (a Chilean friend who was pursuing a course of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois), I wrote to Sears, Roebuck & Company, of Chicago regarding the purchase of a toy railroad layout along with some models of vehicles, so that we could construct a working model. We also began a preliminary investigation of similar inventions through the firm of Munn & Company. But, after some auspicious initial negotiations we received word that the Division of Highways was discontinuing consideration due to the argument that the police would not be able to maintain adequate surveillance to avoid possible vandalism of the cables.
The problem of propulsion by reaction or by rocket motor has preoccupied me since childhood. Back in 1903, our professor of physics at L´Ecole des Roches, M. Bret, was teaching us the theory of reaction. For example, the following experiments were performed: A vessel full of water, from which a small jet of the liquid escaped through a small hole, tilted itself in a direction opposite to the flow of the jet, when suspended from a thread. We applied this principle to the hydraulic moulinet and hydraulic vehicle. Subsequently the professor induced motion in a toy ship through the use of a small boiler which was heated by alcohol and which sent a jet of steam out from the rear of the boat. I still have papers from that time referring to that experiment.
When returning to Montevideo from Europe I bought a magazine in Barcelona — "Nuevo Mundo" — dated October 1906. I was greatly impressed by an article on a rocket ship invented by Herbert C. Rider, to whom the subways of New York owe their existence.
From that time on, the study of a rocket boat absorbed much of my time and about 1909 I conducted an experiment using powder in a toy boat, which resulted in a explosion. At that time, the German Embassy rented the second floor of our house and when the noise of the explosion was heard, the Ambassador rushed out to the rear balcony and asked if the "Primus" kerosene heater had blown up. I showed him the little boat and soon explained all.
By that time, I had written to Messrs. Munn & Company, asking for their opinion of my "rocket–ship". In reply, they told me that they did not believe that such a mode of propulsion for a ship could be successful. I did not know then that the rockets or jet engines in general have an increasing efficiency as the rocket approaches nearer the velocity of the jet. In other words, that a rocket vehicle is not suited to a medium like water, but is adaptable to travel through the air (or even better, in a vacuum, as in space).
A few years later I read in the French periodical "La Nature", a reference to the use of the rocket for the propulsion of interplanetary ships. Later, in February 1920, I read two articles in the Scientific American Monthly, by Dr. Robert H. Goddard, entitled "Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes", and "A Rocket that Will Carry to the Moon". Through these articles, I saw the great importance of the velocity of the jet in the efficiency of a rocket (in other words, that the pressure in the combustion chamber should be great). It was only four years later that I realized my dream to personally meet Dr. Robert H. Goddard.
I had been in the States for a year and a half, for the most part at the University of Illinois, and I was returning to Montevideo via New York. I detoured to Boston for a radio and television exposition and stopped in Worcester on route. There, it was not long before I met Dr. Goddard and, when he found out that I was a South American he told me of his great–grand–father, Danford Goddard. The latter had departed from New York in 1855 in a sailing ship, traveling for four months to Valparaíso, Chile, where he engaged in several businesses. He died in 1856, his remains being buried in the English cemetery at Valparaíso.
Dr. Goddard had the diary of his great grand father, kept during the long voyage and during his stay in Chile. He still guarded carefully the pencil his great grand father had used, still sharpened as the elder Goddard had sharpened it the last time he used it.
After my return to Montevideo, I maintained a long correspondence with Dr. Goddard, and I had published several articles about him in the paper "Imparcial", which I still retain. (One of the letters sent to Dr. Goddard. Thanks to Clark University Archives!)
Needless to say, I continued meditating upon the improvement of rockets and their guidance systems — in the missile field as well as the field of manned rockets. The invention of the German V–1 and V–2 missiles only increased my interest in rockets, and, thanks to publications on the matter, I learned that the Germans considered Dr. Goddard the true pioneer of the scientific rocket.
After the end of World War II, I was able to see several films demonstrating the launching of the German rockets and I was somewhat amazed to see that the jet or point of impulsion was located at the rear without any apparent influence upon the direction and trajectory of the rockets. In my thinking, I had always visualized the jets positioned, as are the motors of airplanes. That is, my rocket, fit to fly in the space void, had rudimental wings in each of which was located a rocket–motor; and a third such rocket was located at the tail to act as a rudder.
In an absolute vacuum, my rocket could be guided by moving the rear rocket–motor so that the jet could be directed upwards, downwards or sideward. By keeping the tail rocket fixed and having a rudder not far from the rear of the jet, within the flow of wind produced by the escaping gases, it could be aimed in all directions.
I was worried by the problem of the short duration of the fuel supply but I believed that in large rockets the fuel would last longer — as in all machines or engines – double length results in eight times more volume. For this reason, I always found the American long—range rockets to be too small. I felt, for example, that one would not use a little boat one foot long to cross the Atlantic — one would use a ship of three hundred or even six hundred feet in length. I also considered that Nature had seen fit to populate the great oceans with large fish, while the smaller bodies of waters were populated by smaller species. I always felt that, to build an interplanetary rocket ship, the size of a transatlantic ocean liner should be adopted.
At the present time, I am studying a method for conserving fuel in the jet planes — increasing the range with the same amount of fuel.
Once the Second World War had ended, in view of the increasing threat of the Soviet Union, I felt that the time had arrived to apply myself to the solution of certain of the technical problems of our common defense.
The idea that preoccupied me had to do with the problem of accurate guidance of guided missiles. Without any knowledge of what had been done already in that branch of the missile field, I felt that these missiles, guided by radio, could be conducted accurately by observing the missile and the target jointly, from two points of view: first, from the point of launching; secondly, from a point placed at right angles with respect to the anterior, directly opposite to one side of the target. This observation could be accomplished by telescope or radar. This would be simple enough where rather short distances were concerned. But, when the distances were long, the curve of the earth would obstruct the vision, it would be necessary to use platforms fixed at extreme altitudes, like periscopes, to be able to see over the curve of the earth.
Such platforms might contain telescopic television cameras that would transmit to the ground whatever appeared in the field on the telescope or on the radar screen. In this manner, any deviation in the trajectory of the missile would be noted and the necessary radio signals could be transmitted to rectify the trajectory of the missile.
As can be seen, this method depends upon the simultaneous utilization of two platforms, although they could possibly serve for the observation of more than one missile. As the platforms would necessarily be expensive, they could be preserved by parachuting them to earth after their function had been performed. The same could be done with the platform carrying rockets.
The platform I invented for the above problem is nothing more than what constitutes my American patent 2,763,447, of September 18th, 1956. This patent states that application was made on August 10th, 1954, but the original application dates back to the middle of 1950. I have evidence of the earlier application, with the specifications the same as those in the 1954 application. In the development of this invention I obtained the valuable help and encouragement of Dr. William A. Beck, professor of technology at the University of Dayton.
Concerning this American patent, I was aroused by the rapid exhaustion of all the copies and the appearance of new issues, which would indicate that my patent had been accepted with great interest by people in the related fields.
As I was meditating upon this, it occurred to me that the mechanism of a jet helicopter lends itself to many applications. For example, the slowing down of artificial satellites or of ballistic missiles before their penetration of the terrestrial atmosphere. Although it is true that this slowing down to avoid inflammation, can be accomplished by means of the opportune firing of a braking rocket placed in an opposite position in the prolongation of the axis of the missile, it appears that there exists the danger of deflecting the missile from its course. However, the braking action of a rocket rotor — a gentle action — would logically not result in a change of trajectory.
I have many ideas of my own regarding the improvement of rockets. One of these consists in the conclusion that a major reason for the lack of a more powerful rocket in our camp is the great heat developed in the combustion chamber and nozzle.
We already are aware that the efficiency of the rocket depends upon the velocity of the ejection of the propellant fluid and that the latter velocity, in its turn, depends upon the pressure within the combustion chamber. And, although an increase in pressure normally is accompanied by an increase in temperature, this is not necessarily the case. Our primary concern should then be the attaining of a maximum pressure with a minimum temperature.
The problem that confronts the rocket engineer is similar to that which presents itself to the engine or to the ordnance builder. The heating of these engines varies in direct ratio to the pressure supported by them. But there are many generally known methods of combating such heat. Why, then, shall we not utilize such methods to enable large rockets of enormous power to be built? This has been acknowledged by the Sub–Secretary of Defense, Donald Quarles, who affirmed that a rocket may contain many rocket motors and not necessarily a single one.
Shortly after the First World War, I devised a rotating gun with a smooth bore and without rifling, that could be loaded during its high–speed rotation. I sent a specification to the Navy, but the reply was that, after careful consideration, the idea was considered undesirable. They said that there were several mechanical difficulties to be solved and that especially on board ships, in crowded turrets my gun would be particularly difficult to operate, even considering these difficulties as solved.
During that period of time I devised also an optical sight for rapid and accurate gunfire.
During the Korean War, as I was residing in Hollywood, I was aware through accounts of that action that the North Koreans attacked the positions of the South Koreans en masse, and with such persistence that the machine guns of the latter became red–hot and had to be stopped. At that time there recurred an old idea of mine which I used to refer to as a "simple machine gun". This consisted of an apparatus which mechanically accelerated bullets in a rectilinear trajectory at great speed.
According to the "Scientific American", there had been built previously centrifugal machine guns which hurled steel balls in quick succession, but I desired to throw ogival, rotating projectiles similar to the bullets of the ordinary machine gun. I had previously read in a scientific publication that discs had been successfully rotated at a speed of more than 60,000 r.p.m., by means of an electric motor, and I was aware that this velocity was more than adequate to provide the bullets with the necessary acceleration. When my machine gun project was properly developed I showed it to a well–known inventor and manufacturer of Los Angeles, Leslie Perhacs. He approved and perfected the same and advised me to apply for a patent, adding, however, that this invention could best be produced in Germany and that the American Government could easily spend a billion dollars on its improvement.(Editor note: The patent was granted on March 13th, 1956 with the number 2,737,941)
Recently, Nikita Krushchev declared that the ballistic missiles cannot be stopped. I know of only two methods by which they can be stopped: 1) the anti–missile missile and, 2) the use of the earth´s crust as an armour plate.
At the present time I am studying the underground defense against the ballistic missile, endowing this old technique with all the ultra–modern features needed to make it successful. In this manner, by the embodiment of long–range ideas, all the vital sources of defense could be protected. Although it might not be possible to avoid destruction and devastation on the earth´s surface — below, the bases would remain unharmed. I would like to discuss these ideas with experts to obtain some fundamental facts upon which I can base my thinking.
Moreover, I believe that new methods of excavation can be developed which would result in less expense; and I believe that underground bases could be supplied with subways, capable of withstanding all types of bombardment for intercommunication.
Apropos of the above, there appeared in some Montevideo newspapers on July 22nd, 1957, a telegram from the Washington, D.C., offices of United Press, that read as follows:
"A committee of Congress today accused the Government of negligence in the protection against radioactive fall–out produced by nuclear weapons. The committee demanded the construction of a system of shelters that would cost several thousand millions of dollars to protect the population against the explosion, heat and radiation of any atomic attack. In a report to the Congress, the committee on operations of the Government said that such a system can be built and equipped at a cost of 20,000 million dollars. The report adds that the construction of high speed roads to evacuate the larges cities — in accordance with the official policy of the Government, which the committee considers inoperative — would cost much more than this amount. The committee said there are ´overwhelming indications´ that the development of the powerful hydrogen bombs, with their vast atomic precipitations, make inadequate the projects of the Federal Administration of Civil Defense to evacuate the cities and probable targets of a nuclear attack".
For several years I have studied the problem of an underground airport impervious to all kinds of missiles and radioactive fall–outs. Last year, when I was describing this airport to my attorney in Santa Ana, California, John D. Cochran, he suggested that I take some steps to associate myself with the scientists and research workers who are working for the defense of the western countries.
Relating to the problem of underground facilities, I might add that one of my old ideas had to do with an "electrical sapper" or "mechanical mole". Among the clippings in my files is one of September 1948, relating to a Russian "terrestrial submarine" or "electrical mole". The "mole" invented by me, and which is included in my master idea for underground shelters, is immensely superior to that of the Russians.
Seven years have now passed since I began to attempt to offer my talents to the U.S.
For some time now the American Embassy in Montevideo has been aware of my interest in the occidental defense, especially in those matters relating to guided missiles, satellites and space ships; and my intentions were well known. I frequently made calls on holders of major posts at the Embassy as well as the military attaches. From these people, I received some highly interesting technical literature.
Encouraged by this spirit of cooperation, I sailed for New York, accompanied by one of my daughters. Upon reaching the States, I proceeded to Washington D.C. where I visited the Uruguayan military mission and made my interests and intentions known. From there I was directed, with an introduction, to a colonel whose name I cannot recall, who, in turn, advised that I apply to Dayton, Ohio.
Before going to Dayton, I passed through Buffalo to take counsel from Msgr. O´Hara, at that time bishop of that diocese. He gave me a letter addressed to colonel Mac Nickle, then commandant of Wright–Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.
Col. Mac Nickle received me with much understanding and advised that I keep the letter of Msgr. O´Hara in my possession for future use. I still retain this letter in my files in Los Angeles.
In the letter, Msgr. O´Hara indicates that he cannot qualify to recommend the value of my inventions but that he can attest to my good character. This is understandable, since I was only acquainted with him in 1907 at the Colegio–Seminario in Montevideo, where there was no great opportunity to distinguish oneself in the sciences and he, of course, was not aware of my success at L´Ecole des Roches and other places.
I spent several weeks in Dayton and Colonel Mac Nickle arranged several conferences with highly placed employees of the base as well as with the circle of young scientists situated there. I visited the base several times, and on each occasion my portfolios were examined upon entrance and exit.
At the time Colonel Mac Nickle retired from the Service and Col. Ostrander was appointed as his successor. I made known to the former the fact that I had left in Montevideo my seriously ill mother of 82 years and he supplied me with unclassified documents on aerodynamics which I could study in the event that it was necessary to return to my home.
In Col. Ostrander I did not find the same sympathy evinced by Col. Mac Nickle and the former advised that I should seek work in California with some of the firms performing work under government contracts.
While in Dayton, I applied for the previously mentioned patent for my "High Altitude Observation Means". In this matter I was assisted then by Dr. Beck and by two attorneys, Richard L. Withrow and Jack W. Hutton.
In the meantime, my daughter had returned to Montevideo and I was feeling somewhat tired and home sick. In September of that year I departed from the U.S., embarking from Los Angeles after several days´ stay in that city.
During the succeeding months, my family and I held high hopes that I might obtain in the States a position suited to my talents and interests. In that spirit, in 1951, the entire family departed for Los Angeles, via New York.
In Los Angeles, in keeping with the advice of Col. Ostrander, I had several conferences with Mr. Clausen, the owner of a factory which produced parts for guided missiles. I visited the factory many times; my briefcase inspected each time, as security demanded. I proposed several projects to Mr. Clausen, among them a raft or landing barge propelled by the vehicles that it transported; a high speed ship (basically an improvement on one invented many years before by Graham Bell), and many more ideas.
Moreover, while in Los Angeles, I worked on an attachment to enable the listener to fasten a telephone receiver to his head, thus permitting the freedom of both hands. In this project, I relied upon the efficient assistance of Mr. Leslie Perhacs; and, the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company loaned us a telephone for experimentation purposes.
Whether or not somebody profited by our invention, I do not know; but I do know that the later models of telephones distributed in the United States had a much smaller and lighter micro–telephone than the older models and answered perfectly the required modifications for the utilization of our invention.
At the beginning of World War I, when the United States was still a neutral nation, I offered to the British Admiralty an invention relating to torpedoes, a receipt for which I still keep, signed by the British vice–consul in Montevideo, Mr. Dobrée. This invention dealt with torpedoes or contact mines towed by destroyers or submarines by means of a cable stretched out across the course of enemy ships. A model was built in the mechanical shops of the Taller Británico of Burbidge, Ltd., located at that time on Calle Paysandú in Montevideo.
The above system was the forerunner of an invention which I perfected later, when the United States entered the war in 1917. In that year, I applied for a patent in the U.S., through the firm of Munn & Co. That firm had doubts about the workability of the system and I had to prove to them, both theoretically and practically, that it would function as claimed. This resulted in such a delay that the patent could only be presented officially on April 16, 1918. The patent was granted on June 3rd, 1919, nr. 1,305,877, and Messrs. Munn & Co., admitted that my idea was new.
Because of the costs involved in obtaining patents, my ideas were always much more numerous than those actually patented. Thus, although my patent 1,305,877 illustrates one method for protecting convoys, other methods are included and I proposed many more to my patent attorneys, Messrs. Munn & Co. For example, based on the patented principle, bomb curtains could be used as an effective protective device, based upon the weapons of that era: i.e. weak, blind and slow submarines and short–range, erratic and lazy torpedoes.
A short time after conceiving the idea of the "Ship Convoy Submarine Defense", I struck upon the idea of a system of individual protection based upon the use of nets to combat torpedoes (bear in mind that the not–cutting shears in the bows of torpedoes had not yet been invented). As such nets were designed to protect the ship while in motion, I devised a system to suspend the nets from rails at both sides of the ships and put them in motion in a direction opposite to that of the vessel, as long as such nets were submerged. At the end of the run of backward movement the nets automatically surfaced and progressed forward toward the ship´s bow, where they again submerged and continued the indefinite cycle of motion.
This idea, with its specification and drawings, was also sent to Munn & Co. The translation from Spanish to English was accomplished with the help of Mrs. Bertha D. De Tuddenham, a teacher in the Crandon Institute who was recommended in the official American media as a person qualified to handle works of a classified nature.
Not satisfied with this second method of protection for ships, which I called "Dynamic Net", or "Caterpillar Net", I contrived many more systems, all of which were sent to Munn & Co.
One of these consisted of what I called a "Static Net". In this case, the ship traveled without any submarine protection but had in readiness a complete system of instantaneous defense to be put in action as soon as sound detectors or other devices warned of the proximity of a submarine or torpedo. The ship carried a folded not which was suddenly unfolded by its own weight while, at the same time, the motion of the ship was stopped. Once the danger had passed, the ship pursued its course while the crew refolded the nets automatically.
Still another method was as follows: in addition to using oriented sound detectors or hydrophones, the ship was equipped with a system of sectional nets. When the approach of a torpedo or submarine was noticed and the trajectory determined the proper section of not instantly closed the way to the enemy vehicle in the threatened area.
During the first World War I also devised several systems of drifting mines; and a dormant mine that omitted upwards ultrasonic vibrations and which was activated by the echo of those waves when a ship passed above it.
I invented also the following:
Various methods for stopping leaks in ships; a submerged and camouflaged naval detector consisting of taut, horizontal wires which produced an electric contact and accompanying alarm when cut by moving vessels; a floating submarine cable that had multiple uses in naval warfare; a transparent and knife shaped periscope that produced no track on the surface of the water, preventing visual detection; an axhydric engine, which threw off no gas bubbles from its exhaust, for submarines and torpedoes (for this invention I was forced to solve, by several different methods, the problem of the high knocking qualities of hydrogen as a fuel).
I mentioned earlier a high–speed vessel that was nothing more than an improvement of the "hydrodrome" of Graham Bell; but, another invention of mine consisted of a vessel capable of moderate speed on fairly calm water which relied upon "caterpillar" paddles for propulsion, rather than paddle wheels.
Shortly after devising this method of propulsion (the originality of which I am not certain), I developed another one which went much further, since it utilized its own hull to operate the "caterpillar" system. In that manner, the hull did not produce resistance from the water since it, in effect, rolled over the water. The hull would need to be made of a soft material such as rubber, so constructed that it would be able to fold and adjust itself in the suitable places, similar to a bellows. There were long, narrow openings at both sides of the hull which separated the lower part (which moved backward or remained stationary) from the upper part (which had a forward movement twice the speed of the vessel itself).
To keep the lower part of the hull swollen and turgescent in spite of the weight of the ship, I resorted to a system of lateral air intakes — which air was compressed in the interior of the hull by means of turbo — compressors.
Now then, this compressed air distended the hull, though a part was lost through the above openings.
One of my earliest invention was a multiple telegraph with a single wire, based on transmitters with potentials formed in echelons acting upon receivers with resistances formed in echelons. I performed this invention only on a sheet of paper but I did not lose anything by failing to pursue it further since Edison had solved the multiple telegraph many years before.
I spent much time and mental effort attempting to discover some way in which coal could be utilized either in or near the mine but so far I have not been successful.
Fifty years ago I was already occupied with such inventions as the electric heating of running water by making use of the water´s own resistance to the electric current. Relative to this problem, I corresponded with the firm Munn & Co.
I made many sketches and diagrams, some of which still remain in my files, for an automatic record changer for phonographs. After many decades, this problem has been solved satisfactorily with standardized records, but I was confronted by a much more difficult problem since, at that time, records were available in various diameters and thickness, and the measurements of the spirals or grooves were not standardized.
A hydraulic engine of high efficiency for small waterfalls, based on the hydraulic ram, was another project to which I devoted much time. To this date I have not finished to bring this project to a successful completion — nor has any other person, to the best of my knowledge.
In the distant past I worked a great deal on the problem of harnessing the power of the tides, giving consideration to the thoughts and projects of other inventors.
Recently, I believe to have solved the problem of harnessing the power of the waves in a very simple manner, although I am not exactly certain of the degree of efficiency that can be attained. My system could be used during states of emergency to supply light; heat and power to destroyed cities and temporary camps. Most other inventions in this direction appear to be overly complicated when compared with mine.
I have worked intensively on projects to permit more extensive use of the static force of the winds (for example, the raising of water), and for utilizing the windmills for such functions as ploughing, drilling wells and many other forms of work not hitherto performed by them.
A shaving soap stick with a handle which permits the user to grasp the same until it is reduced to a thin film. Though my idea was very old, and I have been using it for many years, and still use the same, I just applied for patent in 1950 through the firm of Toulmin & Toulmin, Dayton, Ohio. The patent was granted on July 28th, 1953 and bears number 2,646,878. I tried to sell the invention through the brokerage of John D. Cochran, Santa Ana, California, but all the attempts were unsuccessful.
A pencil–holder that fastens the pencil firmly and permits sharpening or use for writing of the entire pencil.
Cigar holders and pipes that permit smoking without the entrance of smoke into the mouth or lungs of the user.
An artificial heart – lung.
An air purity gauge.
A "pododrome" or "rolling carpet" for private training for athletes.
A hydraulic breather or respirator for measuring the pulmonary capacity.
A hat with great ventilation qualities.
A high – tension dry cell based on a great number of elements.
Hot water pipes imbedded in concrete floors, which I called "floor – tablet – heater", and from which I realized no financial gain. The very same system used today with such success.
An invention that prevented fraud in the lotteries, consisting of balls entirely covered with numerals, to permit the people to read the number while the ball is in any position. The ball was brightly illuminated when leaving the glass globe so that the numbers could be projected onto a screen by suitable means, allowing every spectator a view of the winning ball.
A very old invention was a street – car in which the current came from both rails, the latter being insulated from the ground. To avoid accidents to pedestrians and animals I resorted to low–voltage currents with increased amperage. I presented this to Obligado & Cia patent attorneys.
Another invention of mine consisted of a method of avoiding the fading and other parasitic noises of radio. It consisted of analyzing the transmission by sending the sounds which made up the latter at intervals and synthesizing it upon arrival of the several parts of the transmission. The system dissolved the different parasitic background noises in a certain way. I caused the voice, sound, etc., to be transmitted simultaneously through a number of long acoustic tubes of various lengths where they were delayed more or less time, according to the length of the tube. Once the respective tubes were traversed by the voice, the latter acted upon a respective transmitting microphone. In this manner, if a word or syllable was transmitted during an unfavorable moment, that same word or syllable was transmitted through another tube at a more favorable moment. For the reception, the words had to traverse again as many tubes of varying lengths in the receiving set, that recomposed the words and sounds which had been pronounced at the transmitter. Of course, the system required an excessive number of transmitters and receivers. To reduce the amount of space required, I had the long tubes coiled as spools. I contrived this invention as pure mental exercise and without regard for its practicality.
Several years ago I devised and built a machine capable of printing upon street pavement; and, with this apparatus I realized some profit by printing political propaganda and slogans upon the streets of Montevideo.
A few years ago, I spent some time working on a system of vision by ultra – short – electro – magnetic waves and I presented my idea (although it was not completely developed), to the Office of naval Research in Pasadena, California. In addition, I consulted with Dr. Edward Coomes, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. I expect to completely develop this idea in the future and to achieve practical results.
Among those projects which have greatly aroused my interest have been the following: –
The system for the vertical taking – off and landing of planes which, I believe, could be very valuable during war – time.
Submarines which could be resistant to underwater explosions.
Ten years ago, I devised a spectacle or exhibition which combined aerial acrobatics and music and which I named "aerial dance". As can be conjectured, it consisted of performing in the air steps and movements similar to those of the dance, in time with a waltz tempo that would be heard simultaneously by the pilot and the spectators. I attempted to obtain the services of a biplane, noted for its maneuverability, to experiment with this idea, but I had to settle for a small monoplane owned by a friend. We made a number of experiments, utilizing a radio receiver on the ground and one in the plane — both tuned to appropriate music. However, my friend was not the possessor of great qualities for aerial acrobatics and I gave up the trials.
A short time later a new kind of spectacle appeared, consisting of jets of water which "danced" in time with music and which was called: "Dancing Waters". The jets are lighted with changing colors and are controlled by a special key – board.
Among the inventions which I developed were:
A pocket book register.
A verbograph, dictograph or automatic typewriter, which wrote upon dictation without errors.
An improved fountain pen.
Several systems of parachutes, all having great advantages over the classical types.
Rocket parachutes, with which I made experiments, substituting, lead weights for the parachutist.
A musical instrument of enormous power and range, consisting of 88 electric sirens in echelon, controlled by a keyboard.
A type of music for use by military bands, in which the bass drum and cymbals are supplemented by explosions of varying power, set off in time with the music.
In 1952, I several times visited the president of Gadget – Of – The – Month – Club in Hollywood, submitting several small inventions but without any concrete results.
Among my more recent inventions I should mention a method which I devised for preventing traffic jams in heavily populated areas by controlling the traffic in the periphery of the city. I hope to further develop this idea.
Even more recently, immediately following the sinking of the "Andrea Doria", I devised a system of preventing the sinking of ships due to collision or groundings. I presented this invention to Richard L. Gausewitz, well–known patent attorney of Santa Ana, Cal.
An also submitted to him a working model of a twist – proof telephone cord but, after a preliminary search was made, it was discovered that the idea was not new.
To the same patent agent, I presented several different working models of attachments, for vacuum cleaners, with which wet floors could be dried.
For many years, in the distant past, I had the urge to improve the musical accompaniment of silent moving pictures, as I did not have faith in the artistic success of the talking motion pictures. According to the "Scientific American", the musical motion pictures based on the pantomime play constituted the ultimate in the cinematography art, and could not be supplanted by the prosaic human voice. And, during my stay in the United States in 1923 – 24, I had frequently attended motion pictures which, although they were silent, had a very beautiful and well – synchronized accompaniment provided by an orchestra alternating with an organ. I then applied myself to the study of the synchronization of motion pictures and the musical accompaniment, first obtaining two books related to this subject: "Playing to Pictures" and "The Musical Accompaniment of Moving Pictures".
The first method I devised consisted of photographing the moving picture views while at the same time an adequate musical accompaniment was played which could be perfectly synchronized. The synchronism was secured by photographing, in the border of the film (where the perforations are placed), the rhythm of the corresponding music. Such rhythm was fixed in the film by photographing an object in motion that would beat time to the music. And although the negative of the film might undergo many changes through clipping during editing, the music could be re–arranged to coincide with the action in the final version, the rhythm in this case being printed by a separate negative film.
For the musical accompaniment during the projection of the film, the rhythm or beat of the music could be projected upon a small auxiliary screen to guide the conductor or organist. The musician had before him the same musical score that should go with the pictures.
An improvement of this method consisted of beating the time in an invisible way upon the proper gelatin of the film frame by means of a transparent varnish that reflected the light and the beating movement upon the auxiliary screen, utilizing an optical system similar to the anterior.
In October 1923, I applied for a patent through the Chicago branch of Munn & Co., being represented by Mr. Lester A. Stanley, Attorney at Law. My invention was called "Means for Synchronizing the Musical Accompaniment of Moving Pictures with the Pictures". The application was officially filed on February 9th, 1924 (number 961,766) and was allowed on February 28th, 1929. But, as early as 1926, the Vitaphone appeared. With the latter, it was possible to project sound pictures with a good synchronism and a pure and strong reproduction. I withdrew the application for my system just as the patent was about to be allowed.
During the course of developing the above invention, I devised various other methods, some of which I shall enumerate.
One of these methods consisted of the use of a Pianola roll with marginal perforations geared to a dragging sprocket cylinder which was in turn connected with the moving picture projector. The music so produced was perfectly synchronized with the pictures and was transmitted from the projection booth to the conductor or musician near the screen by means of microphone and headphones. The musician had before him the same musical score as contained in the roll and a perfect accompaniment of the pictures followed. To anticipate the problem that would be presented by breakage of the film, the frames of the film and corresponding parts of the piano roll could be numbered so that accurate splicing could be accomplished.
Another method consisted of the piano roll in the booth making contacts which in turn operated the musical instrument near the screen.
Still another solution was the placing of the Pianola or other automatic musical instrument near the screen; such instrument being operated by a separate synchronous motor electrically connected and synchronized to that of the projector.
As I stated previously, in view of the inauguration of Vitaphone, I abandoned the problem of the musical accompaniment of films. Instead, I applied myself to the solution of some of the difficulties encountered in the use of Vitaphone. One of these difficulties was the impossibility of maintaining the synchronism after the film had been broken and spliced, with a resultant loss of one or more frames. In this case, the record could not be shortened to correspond with the shortened film.
This problem, the solution of which was generally regarded as impossible, was only the first which I successfully encountered with respect to Vitaphone. The system I evolved could omit any part of a record in a manner that did not interfere in any way with the listening. In the foreign countries, this problem was a major one, since there was not available a large stock of low–priced Vitaphone films, as was the case in the United States. Instead, when there was breakage and resultant shortening of the films, the only way that the synchronism could be maintained was through the replacement of the lost frames with a piece of blank film of corresponding length.
My system of omitting a portion of the record had no dissonant effect on the audience so long as that portion consisted of music or song. It was imperfect only when a spoken line was involved.
My method consisted of the use of two pickups which were capable of gliding alongside the groove and only one of which was producing sound at a given time. In the event that the film had been shortened, the projectionist carefully awaited the passage of the cut portion and quickly tripped a switch which transferred the sound from one pickup to the other. The pickups were separated at a distance sufficient to omit that portion of the sound which corresponded to the omitted portion of the movie.
Another difficulty encountered with Vitaphone was that which occurred when the film broke and it was necessary to re–synchronize the same with the record. It was considered impossible to locate the points in the record grooves which corresponded with the respective frames of the film. In the event of such film breakage, the projectionist normally had two alternatives: after repair had been made, he could turn off the sound and project a silent movie for the remainder of the reel, or he could stop projecting, repair the broken part, rewind the film and begin the passage of the film through the projector without light nor sound until the part broken was encountered, when the projection, along with accompanying sound, could be resumed. These operations usually consumed about ten minutes, during which the spectators awaited patiently or impatiently, depending upon their temperaments.
My solution to this problem consisted firstly of numbering all of the frames of the film in their margins (i.e. 1 to 15,000) and secondly of using a counter to determine how much the record had turned with respect to the pickup needle. This counter was geared in such a way that the numerical indication was increased by one unit each time that the whole gear driving the disc and the film turned a distance sufficient to replace one frame of the film in the projection window. The counter actually counted frames and for re–synchronization it was only necessary to place in the projection window the frame whose number corresponded to that indicated by the counter.
Another problem was that encountered when the needle jumped the grooves. For this, it was only possible to stamp micromarks alongside the groove and to read same by means of a microscope suitably mounted.
More than a decade before the advent of Vitaphone, in about 1914, I worked on another moving picture invention. This matter referred to stereoscopic projection, which I obtained by the well–known means of the classical stereoscope, the sole difference being that the spectator used prisms fixed on a folding bracket at a certain distance before his eyes instead of prisms fixed upon his nose. These prisms were much larger than ordinary ones, and one of the merits of the invention consisted of the obtaining — by different and cheaper means — prisms that were efficient in spite of their size. I performed numerous experiments with still pictures and, although the relief was clearly noticed, entirely achromatic prisms with a special curvature were needed. I did not go to the expense of making such experimental prisms as I felt that the method would not be generally adopted by moving picture theatres. Of course, the system also included the classical dark partition of a size proportionate to the prisms, and the twin stereoscopic projections.
To attempt to sell my invention of Vitaphone counter, I made a trip to Europe and the United States in 1929. Before leaving Montevideo, I spoke with Mr. Bernardo Glucksmann, well – known businessman of the moving picture trade in this area. I explained to him the advantages of my invention although not disclosing the details. He informed me that, if I could get the results which I claimed, I would amass a personal fortune.
In Paris, I visited M. Léon Gaumont, who offered to pay me a royalty for each counter placed in operation. Furthermore, he assured me that in the United States, I could ask $1,000 for each counter.
I also visited the American Consulate in Paris, where I had my passport as well as my application for a patent in the United States viséed.
In addition, while in Paris, I visited M. Louis Nalpas, director of the Société Francaise d´Apparéils et Films Sonores, 14 Av. Trudaine, and also met his brother. M. Nalpas asked me to quote a figure on the value of my invention and intimated that he was prepared to negotiate immediately. I replied that I preferred the royalty system and that I already had some offers royalties. He evinced much interest and told me not to forget to contact him when passing through Paris after my European tour.
In short, what happened in Paris was essentially repeated in London and Berlin. In London, I was asked to at least suggest the amount that I hoped to get from my invention so that a concrete offer could be made. But I could not do so. In Berlin I spoke to my attorney, Mr. Werner, who asked only a 20% commission, in view of my prior hopeful talks in London and Paris.
Unfortunately, I am not a businessman and for that reason, among others, I did not close any negotiations. In addition, my patents were only applied for and protected only temporarily. It was not known whether there were similar patents. Neither did I have any working model of the invention, nor could it be utilized as long as there were no numbered films to be used in conjunction with it.
In Paris, I ordered two pinions of special design to connect a Veeder – Root counter to a projector so that a demonstration could be made in New York. This task was undertaken by M. Munerelle, an expert in model making for inventors. While there, I also spent some time with M. Combes, the inventor of a projector in which the films moved with a continuous and uninterrupted motion rather than by successive movements across the projector´s aperture. He demonstrated his invention to me.
Upon arriving in the United States, I bought a counter in New York and proceeded at once to Washington D.C., to see my patent attorneys — Smith, Michael & Gardiner — who had already applied for a U.S. patent.
At about this time I received a telegram from Montevideo requesting that I return at once due to the condition of my wife, an expectant mother at that time. I returned to Uruguay at once and continued negotiations by mail. Moreover, I began the construction of a film – numbering machine.
Subsequently, prior patents were discovered in Washington, as well as in Paris and Berlin. I received the final rejection of my American patent application on September 6th, 1932, and, although my attorneys urged me to contest this decision before the Board of Appeals, I declined to take further action, in view of the ever–increasing use of sound – on – film.
In the projection of motion pictures in foreign countries, the projection of the Spanish or other translation upon the screen presented difficulties because of the varying degrees of black and white in the changing backgrounds, many times resulting in the "bleeding" of the translation into the background. I devised a system of lettering consisting of letters with a double outline — one dark and other light — permitting the letters to be seen upon a light, intermediate or dark background. I submitted this invention to Obligado & Cía., patent in Buenos Aires.
A solar reflector for moving or still pictures.
Before devising my method for synchronizing the music and the film, I had invented an automatic baton, activated by a perforated tape, which led or conducted the musical accompaniment from scores already prepared for the various scenes.
Before becoming acquainted with the Combes projector, I had devised one which utilized continuous movement of the film and alternating movement of the window.
The Cinerama system of projection, some improvements for which I devised and presented to a patent attorney in Los Angeles (who had before him at that time the successful TODD – AO process). I also consulted Mr. Howard Williams, manager of Warner´s Theater in Hollywood, about this matter and I corresponded with Cinerama Corporation.
In 1920, a German ober – ingenieur, Georg Fischer, set up a precision mechanical shop near my home. He had lost a fortune as a result of the war. He possessed documents which established him to be of noble birth and the bearer of the title of Baron. His face bore several scars as evidence of dueling activities in his youth. Since at that time I was apprehensive and suspicious of everything German, I deprived myself of the assistance that could have been rendered by his skills.
Upon my return from the States in 1925, my apprehension had vanished entirely and, as I had many inventions in mind, I sought out Georg Fischer for the building of models and the performance of experiments.
I do not remember the first invention in which he helped me but I do recall that one of the first ones was the film – numbering machine. During the construction of this machine I came to realize the great value of team work, as I was not familiar with the many types of numerators being produced at that time. I decided upon a rotary numbering machine rather than one with an alternating movement and I then became cognizant of the fact that there were available numbering cylinders, shaped like barrels rather than cylindrically shaped, to permit the rotary movement of the machine.
To obtain the special inks necessary for printing on film, I had previously applied to an industrial chemist, Stedman Richards, who presented two formulas. In order to allow time for the ink to dry, the numbering machine had excess rollers over which the stretchedout film passed for a length of several feet. However, I later ascertained that it was much simpler and more rapid to number the film without utilizing inks, by numbers scratched on the gelatin side of the film. Unfortunately, I did not know how to proceed in order to realize a financial gain from this machine, although there were many people with whom I communicated by correspondence who were interested in it.
In 1930, I succeeded in placing my counters in the projectors of one of the most important theater in Montevideo — the Ariel. The actual installation was done by Fischer. The counters remained in use for many years and the chief projectionist sent me the following letter regarding them:
"I take pleasure in informing you that the counters placed in our Erneman II – R.C.A. projectors have proved their practical worth. They give the operators a great deal of peace of mind when they are working with records, as there is no longer any fear of destroying the synchronism because of accidents to the film or of mistakes when placing the first frame in the window aperture of the projector.
Although we are working with first – class machines and with new films, which makes very infrequent accidents to the film, the counter is always useful.
Very truly yours,
By that time, I had made a private demonstration of my invention, at which were present several specialists from both here and Buenos Aires. Here is a letter from an engineer — N. Turpain — of the L. Gaumont Agency in Buenos Aires.
"Thanking you for your interesting demonstration, permit me to congratulate you on your clever invention, which will make the sound film used in Vitaphone even more flexible in the operator´s hands. This simple apparatus can be placed on any type of projector, allowing the return, with great precision to synchronism, in the event of a broken film during projection.
Very truly yours,
By the end of 1924, before returning home, I had the good fortune to twice call upon the great inventor, Thomas Edison. My English teacher in New York, Miss Friesch, who was cognizant of my desire to meet Edison, advised me to write him a letter. The very next day I received a reply, in which Edison gave me the choice of four opportunities to visit him. I went on a day convenient to him and, upon arriving at his home in West Orange, I saw him from a distance, walking through his garden. After some waiting, his assistant, Mr. Meadowcroft showed me into the library where he introduced me to Mr. Edison. We spoke about helicopters and about the architecture of Latin America and, since the great inventor was totally deaf, his assistant conveyed my words to him. Before I departed, Mr. Edison presented me with an autographed portrait. I asked for permission to see him again on the following day, on which occasion I brought with me my Kodak. I set it up on its tripod, focusing it on Mr. Edison and his assistant, and the latter then exchanged places with me and snapped the pictures after I had assumed his position. A number of pictures were taken and I said good – bye to both men, promising Edison that I would publish some articles in South America about his great personality. When I returned to Montevideo, my friend Dr. Mario Falcao Espalter published an interesting article on my visit to Edison in the newspaper "Imparcial" and another in "La Nación" from Buenos Aires. An enlargement of my picture in the company of Mr. Edison taken by Mr. Meadowcroft was on exposition for a long time in one of the show windows of the house of Pablo Ferrando in Montevideo.
In 1911, I read in a magazine from Brussels an article relating to Human Culture, and I completed by correspondence a course offered by an institution founded by Paul Nyssens in that city.
Later, M. Nyssens made a character analysis of me, setting forth my assets and defects through an expert from Chicago, Dr. Victor G. Rocine and his wife, Mrs. Emily H. Rocine. They were Analysts of Character and Specialists in Diet, and had offices at 1621 Kimball Hall Building, Chicago, Ill., "Institute of Human Nature Studies".
It was Mrs. Rocine who advised me to enter the University of Illinois, where I enjoyed about one and one half years of real happiness until, through the assertion of my independence, I became subject to the bias of one of the professors and there was a corresponding decrease in my enjoyment of my studies.
While attending the University High School, contrary to my normal interests, I did not pursue courses in technology. Instead, I enrolled in such courses as Public Speaking, Botany, English, Music and Physical Education. This was a result of advice offered to me by Mrs. Rocine in an analysis of my character. She advised that "for the moment you should not worry too much about your mechanical talent. You will become an inventor sooner or later, but for the moment, you had better leave mechanics and inventions to one side".
As a further result of the advice of M. Nyssens, as well as my studies of naturopathy, towards 1912 I began to forsake the carnivorous dishes and it was not long before I became a confirmed vegetarian. I adhered to this régime for several decades and I still prefer it to my previous diet. From that time I enjoyed better health and felt much better in every way.
I am now going to describe what I consider to be one of my scientific discoveries, which dates back to about 1924 and the following years. It refers to medicine, hygiene and philosophy, and it confirms the fact that the homeopathic theory is universal and has a far more extensive reach than it is more application to pharmacopoeia.
During my stay in the United States in the years 1923–24, I became acquainted with a few adepts to naturopathy and vegetarianism and learned from them interesting facts regarding the relative value of naturistic advices.
Those adepts who were primarily healthy and strong, but that as a result of American custom began to occasionally drink on alcoholic beverage, did not have later the same dread of alcohol as before and began to drink a little whenever they considered it appropriate. As a result of the new habit, it was not long before they had an inflammation of the liver and began to suffer from dyspepsia due to hepatic insufficiency.
With the appearance of this condition, they began to notice that the old vegetarian diet, that at one time was so beneficial to them, was the one that suited them worst. The whole wheat bread was more pernicious to them than the white bread, and the renowned yogurt — antiseptic of the intestine — produced strong heartburn.
Seeking an explanation, it did not take long to realize what had occurred. They had descended a degree or changed signs. Their stomach had changed from positive or good to negative or bad and as set forth in the maxim: "Similia, similibus, curantur", they had put themselves in harmony with the negative sign or evil. Therefore, they could not aspire to profit from the best foods.
Time has only confirmed conclusively that the same change occurs in all things. The athlete who is suffering from a hernia condition no longer derives the rewards from his activity, which formerly filled him with happiness. The ill or the aged can no longer hope to engage in the same exercises which were so beneficial during good health or youth. It would be impossible to enumerate the thousand and one instances in which this law asserts itself. The positive law of the signs in algebra is nothing more than one example of the homeopathic law.
To shorten somewhat this already voluminous report, I will state that, as far as ideas or germs of inventions are concerned, they have absorbed much of my life – time and I have a list totaling about one thousand. Here are a few more to illustrate the point.