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Herbert Belar papers, 1943-1967

Accession: 2464-09Identifier: 2464-09-2.-II.


  • Creation: 1943-1967

Biographical Note

Herbert Belar was born in Austria-Hungary in 1901 and immigrated to the United States in 1919. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Drexel University in 1928, and was promptly hired by RCA Victor Photophone in Camden, New Jersey. Belar spent the first year of his employment completing the G.E. Advanced Course in Engineering in Schenectady, New York, before returning to Camden. He was transferred to RCA Laboratories in Princeton in 1948, where he worked in acoustics under Harry F. Olson for almost twenty years.

While at RCA Laboratories, Belar collaborated with Olson to develop the first musical synthesizers: the RCA Mark I and Mark II. Together they also devised a music composing machine and a phonetic, or voice activated, typewriter. Belar authored one book and co-authored, with Olson, three books and eleven journal articles. He was also issued over forty patents and was one of the scientists appointed a Fellow of the Technical Staff when the title was created in 1959. Belar retired from RCA in 1966 and died in Florida in 1997.

Scope and Content

The Herbert Belar papers are composed of schematics, notes, and compositions from Belar’s work on acoustical electronics, including a music composing machine, a phonetic typewriter, and the music synthesizer, at RCA Laboratories, from 1943 to 1967. They also include schematics and reports on several projects Belar did for the military during World War II as part of a secret RCA working group called “MAD Lab.” Of special note is a 1955 letter from Robert Moog, then a student at Queens College, requesting information on RCA’s electronic music synthesizer.

Thirty-seven of Belar's lab notebooks (1948-1966) can be found in Record group 26.

General Physical Description (AVD portion only)

(AVD portion only) 71 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in.


Folders arranged alphabetically by subject.


From the Collection: 990 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Additional Description

Access Restrictions

This collection contains material from the Manuscripts and Archives Department (M&A) and the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department (AVD). Box prefixes indicate which department holds an individual file or item.

Boxes M&A 127-846, M&A 1061-1064, and M&A 1283-1313 are stored offsite. Please contact the Manuscripts and Archives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.


Folders arranged alphabetically by subject.


Donated to the David Sarnoff Library by the Sarnoff Corporation in 2007.

Processing Notes

Processed by Rachael A. Beyer, 2014.

Related Names



Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA