Friday, 4 May 2012

Dr Hendrik van der Bijl - The Man Who Built South Africa

The MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA and AFRICA as a whole and my greatest hero and role-model, without whom South Africa would still have been in the middle ages.

Last updated : 09 October 2014

I present to you South Africa's Greatest Son
Hendrik van der Bijl
Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl, MA, Ph.D., MAIE, MIRE. Chancellor of the Univ. of Pretoria 1934 - 1948.

No other person in the history of South Africa made a greater contribution to this country, generally, than Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl.

"... the same man who, by extraordinary vision and foresight, laid out the blueprint whereby a small country could rapidly industrialize itself, and who is honoured in the naming of the city of v.d. Bijl Park near Vereeniging." - Professor Martin Wedepohl

"Hendrik v.d. Bijl was a genius of the highest order. To electrical engineers, he is seen in one light. To industrialists another. He was undoubtedly the "father" of modern industrial South Africa."- Professor Martin Wedepohl

He was President of the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE);
He founded the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom- 1923);
He founded the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation (Iscor - 1928);
He founded the African Metals Corporation (Amcor - 1937);
He founded ARMSCOR while serving as director-general of war supplies;
He founded the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC);
He founded the South African shipping company (Safmarine, now part of A.P. Moller-Maersk Group);
He obtained a PhD with a thesis on the behaviour of pure liquid under the influence of radioactivity;
He was Chancellor of the University of Pretoria from 1934 to 1948; 
He is the father of 'Electron Tube Theory';
He developed the thermionic vacuum tube, which enabled wireless telephony to be transmitted over a distance of 4 800 km;
His research led to his treatise entitled The Thermionic Vacuum Tube and Its Applications. This became the standard textbook on the subject for more than 20 years and remains the standard reference work on the subject to this day. This research led to the use of these tubes in radio communication. The first successful transmission of speech by radio was made in 1915. Later that year speech was transmitted by radio over a distance of more than 8 000 km. Van der Bijl managed to get the amplifiers to work to the precise tolerances required over this very long distance.
He assisted in the development of intercontinental telephony and of radio communication between land and aeroplanes;
In the 1940s he developed a method of recording sound using photographed waveforms on 35mm film, which were passed across and interrupted a steady beam of light, and thus generated an electronic impulse to represent sound;
His work contributed to the development of the transistor, which changed the world forever;
In 1940 he was made an external member of the United States Institute of Radio Engineers, of which he became deputy chairman in 1944.
In 1946 he was asked to act as arbitrator between the British government and the British steel industry.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
One of his last activities was the chairmanship of the Van der Bijl Engineers' Corporation (1947).

South Africa's industrial history began with the discovery of gold and diamonds during the last century, and the mining industry was the first chief component of our technological development. During the past six decades, quantum leaps were made in other fields, too, when other industries and research bodies such as Escom, NDC, Iscor, Sasol, Foskor, Alusaf, Mintek, cs I R, SA B S, and A E C were established. These meaningful additions have two outstanding characteristics. Firstly, they were linked mainly to primary activities such as energy and minerals and, secondly, their establishment was to a large extent due to the driving force of individuals such as Hendrik van der Bijl, van Eck, Rossouw, Schonland, and Roux, rather than to impersonal government policy. 

Hendrik van der Bijl said - "it is not the Government’s function to do everything for its people, but that it is it's duty to create conditions that will encourage enterprise, not the type of enterprise that results in the unfair enrichment of some at the expense of others, but enterprise that results in equitable distribution of all the benefits."

Dr Hendrik van der Bijl was to South Africa what Chung Ju-yung was to South Korea
If you do not know who Chung Ju-yung was, see the following links:
Chung Ju-yung - Wikipedia -
Chung Ju-yung 1915–2001 - Biography -

The Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lectures
The Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lecture is delivered annually by a leading personality under the general theme of the role of engineering in society. It is arranged under the auspices of the South African Academy of Engineering and the University of Pretoria (of which Dr Van der Bijl was Chancellor from 1934 to 1948) to commemorate the great contribution he made to the industrial, engineering and scientific development of South Africa. The first Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lecture was delivered in 1963 by Dr M S Louw and since then the lecture has been delivered by many eminent South Africans. (see the list of names HERE)

Hendrik van der Bijl (1887 - 1948)
Hendrik van der Bijl was born in Pretoria in 1887 and attended school in the Cape Province during the Anglo Boer War. After studying at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch, he continued his studies in Physics in Germany and obtained his Ph.D degree at the University of Leipzig, specializing in Electronics. His successful research lead to an appointment as Instructor of Physics in Dresden in 1912 and soon thereafter he was invited to join the American Telegraph and Telephone Co. in New York where he became one of a selected group of engineering research scientists that spearheaded American technological development.

In answer to a call by General Smuts, van der Bijl returned to South Africa in 1920 as Technical Adviser to the South African Government and in the second quarter of the twentieth century he laid the foundations for the development of the South African industry. After studying the economic conditions in the country, he concluded that cheap electric power, cheap steel and financial and technical assistance to the developing industries were prerequisites to further development. This led to him being the architect and Chairman of Escom, Iscor and the Industrial Development Corporation. Then followed an association of Iscor with private enterprise, in Amcor, for the beneficiation of South Africa's base minerals and in Van der Bijl Engineering for the establishment of a heavy engineering industry.

During the second world war Hendrik van der Bijl was appointed first as Director General of War Supplies and later as Director General of Supplies. His outstanding organizing ability and his leadership qualities enabled him to use this opportunity to stimulate and direct this into the second stage of rapid industrial development in South Africa.

In later years Dr Van der Bijl turned his attention to the private sector of the economy. One outcome of this was the establishment in 1947 of Safmarine, of which he was the first Chairman.

The foundations for the industrial development of South Africa were laid by Hendrik van der Bijl the Engineer / scientist, industrial leader and entrepreneur. His achievements have been recognized internationally and locally. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and he received honorary degrees from both the University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Witwatersrand.

The Hendrik van der Bijl lecture is delivered by a leading personality under the general theme of the role of engineering in society.

The following article demonstrates the importance of vd Bijl, not only to South Africa, but to the continent as a whole and even though he is not mentioned int the article, without vd Bijl Africa would still have been in darkness.

Eskom Heritage
Dr H J van der Bijl, the first Chairman of Escom, was also one of the first truly great South African engineering scientists.

"As I have mentioned my radio engineering bibles when I was a student were Terman's two books. In them I learned about high efficiency modulators and oscillators for high power radio transmitters, developed in the 1920's, by an engineer called v.d. Bijl. It was many years later that I realized that he was the same man who, by extraordinary vision and foresight, laid out the blueprint whereby a small country could rapidly industrialize itself, and who is honoured in the naming of the city of v.d. Bijl Park near Vereeniging. 

Hendrik v.d. Bijl was a genius of the highest order. To electrical engineers, he is seen in one light. To industrialists another. He was undoubtedly the "father" of modern industrial South Africa. Someone once explained to me (I think I was my brother's father in law, Ignatius de Villiers, who was at that time Chief Engineer of Eskom) where his stroke of genius lay. Industrial USA heavily influenced him. Under their law private monopolies are illegal. This was exemplified by the break up of ATT/Bell in between the war years when they were broken in two to create as a rival ITT as a competitor. v.d Bijl recognized the danger of government monopolies with an explosion of inefficient bureaucracy but also recognized that South Africa at the time was far too small to create competing private industries (the economically active population was only about 3,000,000). His genius was to establish a series of commissions which were private, but in which the government owned 51% of the shares. At first sight this would appear to be no different from a government monopoly. But not so. The commission might consist of three government nominees, but there would also be two private members that could scream from the rafters if bureaucratic excess started to develop. It was this factor which led to the extraordinary success of Iscor, Eskom, Phoskor and so on. The liberal party in the UK adopted his structure in the 1960's as the correct way to establish national industries. BP (British Petroleum) was structured the v.d Bijl way and has been a notable success."Professor Martin Wedepohl

Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl, the second son of Pieter Gerhard van der Bijl was born on 23rd November 1887 in Pretoria, some 33 years after Scottish missionary David Livingstone first set eyes on the "The Smoke That Thunders" (the Victoria Falls). His parents were typical burghers of the Zuid Afrikaansche (i.e. Boer) Republic of the Transvaal. His father Pieter Gerhard van der Bijl was the seventh generation of the original Dutch van der Bijl family to be born in South Africa. The family had moved to Pretoria a few months before Hendrik was born. Pieter build up a successful business as a produce merchant and property investor. He became quite influential, counting among his many friends such well-known South African politicians and future Prime Ministers as Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, and Barry Hertzog.

Young Hendrik’s education was disrupted because of the Anglo-Boer War. He attended the Staatsch Model School in Pretoria, but the school was closed down and converted to a prisoner-of-war camp. (It was this camp from which young war correspondent Winston Churchill made his much-publicised escape during the early days of the war, just one day before he was to be released anyway.) After the fall of Pretoria in 1900, the family moved to Gordon's Bay and Hendrik was sent to Boys' High School at Franschhoek, from where he matriculated. The boy was interested in music and literature, and philosophy interested him deeply, but it was the exactness and logic of science that gave him great satisfaction, the application of which he held in even greater esteem. The boy did well at school and continued his studies at the Victoria College (today the University of Stellenbosch).

At Victoria College he excelled at physics, but in 1908, when he graduated it was with distinctions in mathematics and chemistry as well. He was also awarded a prize as best student in mathematics and physics.

In those days opportunities for a man of his talents were somewhat limited. He could either become a lecturer and later a professor of physics or join the Department of Agriculture.

On the other hand, he could further his studies in Europe. This he decided to do and as the German universities were considered leaders in the field of experimental physics, he went to Germany. Up to that stage his father had paid all his education fees, but stated clearly that further expenses were to be looked upon as a loan.

Van der Bijl first studied at Halle, later at the University of Leipzig and although the language was strange to him, it in no way hindered his academic achievements. Within two years, van der Bijl completed his thesis to prove an electron carried the same fundamental charge in ionised liquids as in gases. Impressed by his talent and dedication, his supervisor recommended him highly and he was offered the post of Assistant in Physics at the Royal School of Technology at Dresden. At the beginning of 1912, the 24 year-old van der Bijl took up his new duties, having left Leipzig with the degrees of Masters of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy.

The head of the Department of Physics at Dresden was Professor Hallwachs, the discoverer of the photoelectric effect. Hallwachs had observed that when ultra-violet light struck the surface of a metallic plate, some of the electrons were dislodged at high velocities. If Einstein's and Planck’s new quantum theories were correct, the wavelength of the light should be proportional to the maximum velocity of the electrons. However, several attempts to demonstrate this had so far proved fruitless. Hallwachs brought this perplexing problem to van der Bijl’s attention and suggested that he look into it. This led to van der Bijl’s paper entitled "Zur Bestimmung der Erstenergien lichtelektrisch ausgeslöster Elektronen" [The Determination of the Initial Energies of Photoelectrically Liberated Electrons] being published in April 1913.

Just before the publication of his paper, van der Bijl met Robert Millikan, the eminent American physicist. Millikan was impressed with the young van der Bijl and recommended the young engineer to the Western Electric Company. Van der Bijl accepted their job offer and set out for New York.

His research at this company on the thermionic valve, which was developed by Dr Lee de Forest, led to his treatise entitled The Thermionic Vacuum Tube and Its Applications. It became the standard textbook on the subject for more than 20 years. This research led to the use of these tubes in radio communication. The first successful transmission of speech by radio was made in 1915. Later that year speech was transmitted by radio over a distance of more than 8 000 km. Van der Bijl managed to get the amplifiers to work to the precise tolerances required over this very long distance.

He married an American girl and during the First World War was approached by the American government to assist them with the defence system of the country. He was also associated with the Bell Telephone Laboratories and by 1917 had made significant contributions to the development of the photo-electric cell and by this means also to television. A book which he later published, remained a standard textbook on the subject for some 45 years. Hendrik van der Bijl was extensively honoured for his many engineering and scientific achievements.

General J C Smuts had assumed the reigns of government in South Africa. Smuts thought that a scientific adviser would be an asset to his Cabinet, and as van der Bijl’s fame had spread to the country of his birth, he was Smuts’ first choice.

Van der Bijl was persuaded to return to South Africa and in 1920 he left the United States. He was formally appointed as Scientific and Technical Adviser to the Department of Mines and Industries, but was directly responsible to the Prime Minister. At first his work was unrelated to electricity, but soon he started with plans for a public utility to provide the industries with cheap electricity.

The United States had given him plenty of opportunity of acquainting himself with this type of concern. "South Africa", he said, "cannot afford to be unmindful of the very great changes that are taking place in other countries. Once cannot help being impressed with the enormous industrial potentialities of this country".

Van der Bijl wanted to combine the advantage of a state-controlled undertaking with those of a public concern. The capital would be provided by the State and the company would be run on commercial lines. These ideas had already occurred to van der Bijl while in the United States.

In 1923 the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom) was founded. As Chairman, van der Bijl borrowed R16 million from the State and began putting his plans into action. From the outset the undertaking was success and within 10 years van der Bijl was able to pay back to the State loan.

Under his expert guidance Escom progressed form strength to strength and within a short period of time van der Bijl was able to fulfil his promise: South Africa was assured of sufficient inexpensive power for its fast-growing industries.

Hendrik van der Bijl had originally shaped the Office of the Chairman of Escom as an executive chairmanship. It was only while he ran the supplies directorate during World War II that George Harding and Percy Furness handled much of the day-to-day management of Escom. Towards the end of the war, van der Bijl resumed control when the expropriation of the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Limited (VFP) was raised, and he only appointed Harding and Furness joint General Managers (that is, executive officers) of Escom in 1948.

With Escom progressing so well, this far-sighted engineering scientist was able to direct his attention to the steel industry. Before long Escom had an industrial twin, namely Iscor (the South African Iron and Steel Corporation). In this instance the promise was to provide inexpensive steel for South Africa. In 1934 the first steel was produced.

During the Second World War, van der Bijl became Director-General of War Supplies and later Director of Supplies, appointments that afforded him the status of a Minister.

It was also during this period that he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honour he considered to be the greatest afforded him.

By the end of the war in 1945, Dr Hendrik van der Bijl could look back on 25 years devoted to serving his country. During this period he had been responsible for the founding of dynamic undertakings such as Escom, Iscor, Amcor, Vecor and the development of Vanderbijlpark. In this time he had been responsible for the rapid advance of his country along the paths of progress and prosperity. He was a man of vision and forcefulness who planned magnificently. The benefits of these attributes are being reaped in South Africa today.

He had relinquished a most promising career in the United States to be of service to the land of his birth.

Dr Hendrik van der Bijl, a truly great South African, passed away in 1948 while still in the prime of his life.

The sources of this material are:
A Symphony of Power – The Eskom Story, and Eskom: Golden Jubilee 1923 - 1973.
"The Remarkable Dr Hendrik van der Bijl" Dirk J Vermeulen, SAIEE Historical Interest Group, The Proceedings of the IEEE vol 86 no 12, December 1998

See also:
Van der Bijl, Hendrik
1887 - 1948 Engineering Scientist and Industrialist

WECO VALVE, 1920's
WECO VALVE, 1920's
Called the Weco (Western Electric Company) or Peanut Valve. Mullard also produced this valve. Ideal for battery equipment with a nominal 1Volt quarter amp heater, and only 17-45 volts anode.
Introduced by the Western Electric Company in 1919 and developed originally by Dr Hendrik Johannes Van der Bijl as the 215A
The Mullard version complete with 4 pin adapter was advertised in The Meccano Magazine in 1924 for 30 shillings.

Made in Britain from the American version with a British 4 pin base.
Also made by B.T.H.Co. and called the Weco Valve. Mullard also produced this valve. Ideal for battery equipment with a nominal 1Volt quarter amp heater, and only 17-45 volts anode.
Introduced by the Western Electric Company in 1919 and developed originally by Hendrik Johannes Van der Bijl as the 215A

Africa 2010 – Bridging the knowledge divide 
– electricity Part 16 of 30
The Zimbabwe Telegraph
Published: January 8, 2010 (Sadly this link is no longer available)

In our daily conversations, many of us believe that Africa would have been better off if it was left to its own devices to chat a development course that addressed its human and institutional challenges.

It is easy to blame colonialism, imperialism and globalisation for the current condition of Africa.

However, Africa may not be necessarily where it is on the development ladder just because of the complex interactions with other civilisations but also the inability of our generation to fully appreciate the true nature of the colonial state and the mindset that informed the choices made by the role players.

As we try to understand our present, we are compelled to look back and locate some of the innovations that have contributed significantly to the continent’s social and economic change.

We all take for granted electricity and its impact on the quality of human life and yet without it the condition of Africa would be a very different story.

For the privileged Africans, it is hard to imagine life without electricity and yet millions of Africans live without it.

The genesis of the electronic revolution was in Europe and Africa had little part to play in the history and development of electricity.

Electricity has been a challenge not only to engineers and scientists but lay persons for hundreds of years. We know it exists but it is difficult to explain what it actually is.

It is not visible and it cannot be stored. Although it has no weight, it can lift and move thousands of tons. It has no shape and yet it is everywhere. It is a form of energy that can be harnessed. Modern Africa could not exist without electricity.

There are two main types of electricity known i.e. static and current. If it was not for the work of people like Benjamin Franklin, Luigi Galvani, and Alessandron Volta, our world today would be different. We, therefore, need to acknowledge the contribution of non-Africans to our heritage.

Without their knowledge, capital and ability to convert ideas into practical things, Africa’s present condition would be different.

What is the history of electricity in Africa? It is recorded in the Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa that an electric device was first used in South Africa in 1809.

In 1860, the first electric telegraph system that operated between Cape Town and Simon’s Town was introduced so was an electric arc light demonstrated the same year on the African soil.

The local railway station in Cape Town was first illuminated by electricity in 1881 and the first telephone exchange was opened a year later in Port Elizabeth.

Cape Town’s Table Bay docks were first illuminated by electric arc lamps in April 1882 followed by the Cape Colonial Parliament in May 1882.

During the same year, Kimberley, the Diamond City, switched on electric streetlights making it the first city in Africa to use electricity in this manner.

The first electric power station was established in 1891 preceded by the use of electric motors, lights in mines, private lighting and an electric tram between 1884 and 1890.

With the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886, Johannesburg installed its first electric plant in 1889 that generated power by gas engines.

An electric reticulation system followed in 1891 with municipal supplies being switched on in 1892 in Rondebosch, followed by Cape Town city centre in 1895, Durban in 1897, Pietermaritzburg in 1898, East London in 1899, Bloemfontein and Kimberley in 1900, and Port Elizabeth in 1906.

In 1892, hydropower was first generated in South Africa and this was followed by the installation and commissioning in 1896 of an overhead trolley-wire electric tram.

Siemens and Halske became the first independent power producer in Africa in 1889 when it was granted the concession to supply electricity to Johannesburg and Pretoria beginning operations in 1894 after obtaining a concession to transmit electricity to the mines of the Witwatersrand.

In 1895, the concession was ceded to The Rand Central Electric Works Limited which commenced commercial supply operations in Brakpan in 1897.

Pursuant to a Government Gazette of 6 March 1923, the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom) was established with effect from 1 March 1923 with Dr. Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl as its first Chairman. It is Africa’s largest producer of electricity.

South Africa will this year be the first African country to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup. It was also the first country to introduce electricity in the continent.

Electricity was introduced to meet market needs not for political expediency.

Investments in the power sector are lumpy. Before an investment is made one has to be confident that the target market would be willing and able to pay for the investment.

What is instructive about the South African experience is that such investments were domestically conceptualised with little or no input from the colonial office.

There was no expectation of external bilateral or multilateral financial and technical support. If there were mistakes, they were made by the actors who had to live with the consequences of their choices and actions.

At its foundation, the colonial state was meant to serve the needs of the people to whom it owed its existence.

Without enterprising and daring people, South Africa would not have scored a first. This is not to say that the political economic system that underpinned the business model was desirable and equitable.

What it means is that we should not take for granted our corporate heritage lest we lose the foundation that has made some part of Africa points of light while other parts remain in darkness.

Investments in electricity were not accidental but were deliberate. There are men and women who made it possible. It is through the experiences of these individuals that we can learn about what we need to do to extend the perimeter of light in Africa.

As we learn about our past we should critically examine what our obligations are in terms of institution and human capacity building. If the industrial pioneers of South Africa were small minded the outcome we see today in the country would show.

What occupied the minds of these pioneers? Their actions could not have been motivated by a desire to solely promote the interests of the mother country but a genuine desire to improve the quality of life of the people to whom they felt electricity meant something.

To a subsistence farmer, for instance, the meaning and value of electricity is different to a commercial farmer.

Electricity only has value to those with the means to pay for it. If you do not have the resources, it is a question of time before you plunge into darkness.

It is after all an expensive and risky game but ultimately someone has to pay.

To the extent that South Africa has scored many firsts in Africa, we need to know more about this 15-year old baby in Africa.

It is pregnant with lessons on how to build nation states. Once we discount the race-based approach to human civilization, we may find that the values, beliefs and principles that informed the choices made on industrial, agricultural and mining development may resonate need to be holistically understood.

Note by ToxiNews:
Sadly, besides the fact that this great South African has never received the acclaim or recognition he truly deserves,  in post-1994 South Africa, being a white male Afrikaner, a man like Dr. Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl would not have achieved anything for the country, because the ANC Government's affirmative action policies, like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and Transformation policies, would have excluded him from from the job market and prevented him from establishing any of the companies and organisations he founded in his day. He would probably not have returned or, if he had, he would have been forced to leave his country of birth.

Daphne Oram
An Electronic Music Pioneer
"South African electronics engineer, [Hendrik] Johannes van der Bijl, working in the 1940s, developed a method of recording sound using photographed waveforms on 35mm film, which were passed across and interrupted a steady beam of light, and thus generated an electronic impulse to represent sound but the Oramics system reveals a more lucid, free and at the same time more precise analogue of sound waveforms."

A history of sampling (TUTORIAL ARTICLE)
By Hugh Davies

Most of the photoelectric organs and organ-like instruments from the late 1920s and 1930s were based on the mechanism of a rotating disc that interrupted the passage of a beam of light between its source and a photocell (already used by Hendrik van der Bijl in 1916 and envisaged in 1921 by Hugoniot), thus avoiding the wear and tear of direct contact with the surface of the recording.

Oral History Transcript
Interview of Dr. Leonard Loeb by Thomas S. Kuhn on August 7, 1962,
At Loeb’s Summer home, Pacific Grove, California
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,

This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee.


But you know, it wasn’t explained within a couple of years. At least it wasn’t generally. The first time that Franck and Hertz publish anything which relates these experiments to the Bohr atom, is in 1919, five years or more after the experiment.
In this country we were ahead of them then. I didn’t realize that. Now let me give the picture as I see it. Van der Bijl was a British-trained Dutchman who was at the Bell Laboratories. And he was an exceedingly astute fellow. And he explained the operation of the low voltage mercury arc on the basis of multiple ionization. He pointed out also that the apparent ionization of these things must be due to a secondary photo-electric emission. And he pointed this out at that time. Now he may not have published it, but this was in discussions or in a seminar at Ryerson. When was the Bergen Davis and Goucher experiment published? … I can tell you this, at a Physical Society meeting in 1917, John T. Tate gave his maiden doctoral paper. It was this April meeting — I guess ‘18. He had awakened one after another of the spectral lines with a spectroscope at the Bohr potentials. So already in 1917 there was experimental proof that these were lines, line emission, and Van der Bijl, I am sure … was the one who suggested this, but Tate used a different technique. He used a spectroscopic technique, as I remember it. And this endeared Tate to me. When I listened to this, why this just popped out, there it was! Then Compton very early came out with the idea of using asymmetrical electrode systems and then differentiate the photo-effect. As I say, these wee inelastic impacts were received and this was quantum theory.


What sort of contact would there have been between Van der Bijl at Bell, and (Ryerson)?
Millikan was very closely tied in with Bell Labs. I think they offered him the job of director, and his outstanding Ph.D., Jewett, one of the first few (somochromes) from Ryerson, took the directorship there. He kept very close to Millikan, and Millikan was continually consulted. Chicago was just as California now or began to be with the cyclotron and the developments and Birge — a mecca for visiting scientists. So in those days, everybody came to Chicago. And Millikan of course was a tremendous drawing card. So Van der Bijl spent some time around there. I mean I got to know him personally very well. He was the one who did probably the best engineering scientific work, and wrote the first book on the amplifier and oscillator tubes. Before that you’d had de Forrest and (Winters) and everything had been cloaked in secrecy. Van der Bijl was a top-notch engineering scientist. Then he went down to South Africa and became director of their South African research group, and he died very early. He was a very able man.

Read more about this Great South African Engineer :

The Remarkable Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl (a MUST READ .pdf article)
Proceedings of the IEEE

Reminiscences on vacuum tube radio engineering, Trevor Wadley, Hendrik van der Bijl, and Otto Brune
by Professor Martin Wedepohl, March 2002

Hendrik van der Bijl

Thermionic amplifier article 
Proceedings of the IEEE
Dr Hendrik van der Bijl
File size: 327kb .pdf

Famous SA Engineers, Scientists/Events
University of Stellenbosch
Dr Hendrik van der Bijl
Links to the two articles above obtained here

The thermionic vacuum tube and its applications (eBook download)
By H. J. (Hendrik Johannes) Van der Bijl
Publisher: New York [etc.] McGraw-Hill book company, inc.
Contributor: University of California Libraries
55.3mb 424 pages

The Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lectures
South African Academy of Engineering

International Electrotechnical Commission - Hendrik van der Bijl

Scanning the Past: A History of Electrical Engineering from the Past
Hendrik van der Bijl
IEEE Cincinnati Section

The Contribution of the South African Dr HJ van der Bijl

SAIEE Museum Historical Section

COMMUNICATION THEORY by Frans M.J. Willems Spring 2005

The thermionic vacuum tube and its applications (1920)
University of Toronto - Gerstein Science Information Centre
Ebook and Texts Archive downloads

A Biography of H. J. Van Der Bijl
University of Toronto - Gerstein Science Information Centre
Ebook and Texts Archive downloads
7.3mb .pdf

Internet Archive - Search results

Vacuum Tube Electronics I: The Classic Texts Time-Line
Positive Feedback


Selected and annotated by Scott Frankland
©Scott Frankland, 1998
431kb .pdf

Early X-ray equipment: a view from the south
by Dirk. J. Vermeulen

Springbok business XV
The departure of four Big Men complicates selection of SA's best in business.

See second-last paragraph
The above article will in due course also be available HERE

By Hendrik vd Bijl's books at
References to Hendrik van der Bijl

SPOTLIGHT on the 27th Annual Hendrik van der Bijl Memorial Lecture

by A.N. BROWN.

Africa 2010 – Bridging the knowledge divide – electricity Part 16 of 30
The Zimbabwe Telegraph
Published: January 8, 2010
Sadly this link is no longer available, but the entire article is posted above

Die siel van Jacob Maroga
Nov 07 2009 23:45
Deur Jan de Lange
Moroga claims that his inspiration comes from Dr. vd Bijl

List of Fellows of the Royal Society 1660 – 2007
Bijl, Hendrik Johannes van der

23 November 1887 - 02 December 1948
Fellow 16/03/1944
Page 35
File size 1mb .pdf

Royal Society Record of Hendrik van der Bijl

More Royal Society links refering to Hendrik vd Bijl can be found here

Os Homens Por Traz Dos Circuitos
Hendrik Johannes Van Der Bijl

George H. Clark Radioana Collection c. 1880-1950
By Robert S. Harding, 1990
Revised by Robert S. Harding, 2001
Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Van Der Bijl, Hendrik Biographical writings and information

Interview with Harold S. Black
Harold S. Black (1898-1983) invented the negative feedback amplifier, revolutionizing the field of electronics.
An Interview Conducted by Michael Wolff, IEEE History Center, 20 May and 29 June 1977
A number of refences to Hendrik van der Bijl can be found in this interview

Opening Black’s Box
Rethinking Feedback’s Myth of Origin

David A. Mindell
Refence to Hendrik van der Bijl can be found on page 411
File size: 277kb .pdf


Dr Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl, SA industrialist who laid the foundation for the establishment of Escom and Iscor, is born in Pretoria

Stalled on the road to growth
by Lumkile Mondi
Mail & Guardian 22 JUN 2012

WIKIPEDIA PAGES Referring to vd Bijl

Hendrik van der Bijl

Hendrik van der Bijl

Hendrik van der Bijl


Mittal Steel South Africa

They shaped our century

List of Fellows of the Royal Society A,B,C,B,C

Current–voltage characteristic
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Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Limited
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Voice inversion
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Superfluid helium-4
L.D. Landau's phenomenological and semi-microscopic theory of superfluidity of helium-4 earned him the Nobel Prize in physics, in 1962. To explain the early specific heat data on superfluid helium-4, Landau posited the existence of a type of excitation he called a "roton", but as better data became available he considered that the "roton" was the same as a high momentum version of sound.
Landau thought that vorticity entered superfluid helium-4 by vortex sheets, but such sheets have since been shown to be unstable. Lars Onsager and, later independently, Feynman showed that vorticity enters by quantized vortex lines. They also developed the idea of quantum vortex rings. Hendrik van der Bijl in the 1940s, and Richard Feynman around 1955, developed microscopic theories for the roton, which was shortly observed with inelastic neutron experiments by Palevsky.

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