John Warfield Exhibit

Ordnance Research Laboratory

As an instructor in Electrical Engineering at Penn State, Warfield had summers available for research and part-time work. Throughout the the late 1940's and 1950's, he worked at a series of positions focused primarily on classified defense research. In a period of ever-escalating tension with the Soviet Union, scientific advancement was seen as a key indicator of progress in the Cold War. Warfield's first research position was with the Ordnance Research Laboratory (ORL) at Penn State. He obtained a Secret clearance, and worked on technology for the Navy, studying "classified problems in the field of underwater sound." This including trajectory analysis, carrier circuits, detection probability analyses, and noise theory.

Warfield's work for the ORL  continued off and on during his tenure at Penn State. When not under contract to work there, he was besieged by recruiting letters to return - for the better part of a decade. This recruiting letter, written in November 1951 by Arnold Addision, Personnel Director of the ORL, was sent to Warfield in Indiana while he was working on his PhD at Purdue. The letter states that "A brain such as yours is needed in the defense effort, especially as it relates to the Bureau of Ordnance's favorite laboratory, ORL. Secretary of Defense Lovett was saying to me only the other day that he hoped Warfield had made plans to return to State College." Warfield was indeed making quite a name for himself.

Heavily Recruited

Warfield's work as a professor and defense researcher made him a valuable commodity. As the military-industrial complex in the United States grew at a remarkable pace, scientific minds were in heavy demand. Warfield was recruited heavily by many of the top corporations in the world during these years. At right is an example of these recruiting efforts: a 1952 offer letter from Hughes Aircraft in California to work on "classified government projects." Warfield considered this offer (note his salary calculations on page 2 of this letter) but ultimately decided not to accept.

First Foray into Systems Engineering

Warfield maintained ties with the Ordnance Research Laboratory throughout the early part of his career. In 1955, he was invited to present a seminar of Systems Engineering - a study that would be the first indicator of the work that would define the latter course of his career. The report was targeted at the Navy's work in underwater ordnance, but prepared in a general nature applicable to any the design of any system. A critical concept proposed by Warfield was to "present material common to most systems problems and that, in general, discussion of engineering problems of specialized nature should be avoided." This non-specialized approach to systems design would be the hallmark of his later work with Interactive Management and Generic Design. The paper was well-received by the Navy, and permission was sought to send it out to other Navy research centers.

Considered at the Highest Levels

Throughout the 1950's, Warfield's star continued to rise. In addition to his work with PENNSTAC and the ORL, he worked for Ramo-Wooldridge (predecessor of TRW) on the design of computers used in ballistic missile launch sites. He left Penn State in 1955 for a faculty position at the University of Illinois, and in 1957 joined Purdue University as an Associate Professor. His tenure at Purdue was brief, and he at last settled at the University of Kansas for a long spell, from 1958-1966. During this period working in academia, he continued to be heavily recruited. In 1960, his name was under consideration for the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the Army's Corps of Engineers, as evidenced by the letter at right.

Still Pursued by Ordnance Research Laboratory

As late as the 1960's the ORL at Penn State was still making efforts to bring Warfield back into the fold. This long 1961 letter from John Johnson, Director of the ORL, discusses some of the specifics of a professorial position that would include classified research work. This included "research in underwater acoustics, electronics and signal processing, and design and development of experimental acoustic detection, tracking, and guidance systems."

But Warfield's time as a defense researcher was over. He continued to perform research on electrical engineering projects, but spurned offers to return to the defense industry. In response to a 1962 offer from Motorola's Military Electronics Division, he wrote that was seeking a position that would "permit a certain amount of independent study in a field of interest to me," and insisted that it "does not involve any appreciable committment to dealing with customers, including the government."