North Central College - Naperville, IL

Harold Zahl

Class Year: 
1927

Physics major

How many of the scientists who have shaped our world can you identify? Here’s a few — all Nobel laureates: Harold Varmus. John Mather. Peter Agre. And their schools? Small liberal arts colleges.

Within a few years of graduating with a degree in physics and mathematics from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, before World War II, Harold Zahl became a pioneer in the field of radar research, producing significant innovations for the U.S. military. After earning advanced degrees from the University of Iowa, this distinguished American physicist invented the infrared detector, which led to the assignment of responsibility for detection of ground, sea and air targets to the Signal Corps. He also invented the pneumatic cell, resulting in the development of the first Army radar and the adoption of radar technology as a major means of surveillance and navigation.