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Otto Sorg Schairer notebook assembled by George S. Schairer, 1919-1992

Accession: 2464-09Identifier: 2464-09-1.-I.


  • Creation: 1919-1992

Biographical Note

Otto Sorg Schairer was born of German parents in Saline, Michigan on October 7, 1879 just a few miles from Ann Arbor. Schairer acquired a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan in 1902, and left Michigan to work in Pittsburgh for Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. While in Pittsburgh, Schairer and two others founded the first broadcasting radio station, KDKA. Aside from broadcasting, Schairer understood the value of a knowledge of patent law in his profession. He earned a law degree at night and passed the bar in 1912 and he moved to a leadership role in Westinghouse's Patent Department after the First World War.

In 1929, he joined the Radio Corporation of America as Director of Patent Development and was soon promoted to Vice-President. As well as the Patent Department, Schairer oversaw RCA's research activities, which were then divided between several separate subsidiaries. In late 1940, he proposed the centralization of research under a single independent unit of RCA. The result was the administrative unification in RCA Laboratories in 1941 and the physical centralization of most research at the new Princeton laboratories in 1942.

Schairer, whose title was changed from Vice-President in Charge of Patent Department to Vice-President in Charge of RCA Laboratories in 1941, continued to supervise both operations until 1945 and retired the following year. At the age of 96, Schairer died on March 12, 1975.

Schairer was one of the first electronics executives to understand the potential for television as an educational and entertainment medium. While still at Westinghouse he persuaded the company to contract with Vladimir Zworykin for all of his inventions, including those related to television. In addition, he encouraged Westinghouse, GE and finally RCA to develop radio and for RCA to distribute the apparatus for huge profits.

Otto's son George S. Schairer (1913-2004) was an aeronautical engineer who served as Boeing's vice-president for research and development from 1959 to 1973.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of a disbound notebook containing speeches, reports, notes, and other material by Otto Sorg Schairer. The notebook was assembled by his son, George S. Schairer, primarily to document Otto's role in the creation of RCA Laboratories as an independent unit within the Radio Corporation of America.


The notebook is in original order.


From the Collection: 990 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

Records subject to 25-year time seal.


The notebook is in original order.


George S. Schairer sent the notebook to James J. Tietjen in 1992. Tietjen, who had moved from President and CEO of the David Sarnoff Research Center to the same position at its parent SRI International in 1990, forwarded it to the David Sarnoff Library.

Processing Notes

Processed by Daniel Michelson and David Burdash, January 2015

Related Names



Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA