Ninety years ago, the founders of a high-tech startup used chalk and string to trace the dimensions of their first lab – setting Raytheon on a historic course of continual renewal inspired by customer focus, strong values, and excellence in technology and innovation

As Raytheon marks its 90th anniversary in July, tens of thousands of employees worldwide are celebrating the remarkable journey of an early technology startup that has continually renewed itself through technology and innovation leadership in pursuit of customer success.

“It is truly amazing to think about how far Raytheon has come since our early days, with our rich heritage of 90 years of inventions and breakthroughs to support customers around the world,” said William H. Swanson, Raytheon Chairman and CEO. “While our world has changed a lot since 1922, what remains steadfast is Raytheon’s consistent focus on excellence in technology and innovation, and our talented team tackling some of our customers’ hardest problems.”

Raytheon was founded in Cambridge, Mass., on July 7, 1922. The company’s founders included Laurence Marshall, an engineer and business person; Dr. Vannevar Bush, who would become Dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering and science advisor to President Roosevelt during World War II; and Dr. Charles G. Smith, a brilliant scientist. The startup was initially called the American Appliance Company.

Later in July, after the venture’s incorporation, in a scene memorialized in Raytheon’s biography, The Creative Ordeal by Otto J. Scott, “Marshall led C.G. Smith to a vacant third floor of the Suffolk Engraving Co. building on Kendall Square, Cambridge. The leader was carrying a string and a piece of chalk, and the two men marked off the space for a wall enclosing the new laboratory” of their startup.

Its breakthrough innovation was a tube that would transform the radio into an accessible and affordable “must-have” device for the home. The company gave its new tube an auspicious name, ultimately parsed from the Old French (“rai” -- “a beam of light”) and the Greek (“theon” -- “from the gods”). The tube, and later the company itself, would be called “Raytheon.”

Many ventures have soared initially on the strength of one exciting innovation -- only to fizzle in the Second Act. Raytheon, however, was able to build on its initial success, to gather its founding threads into its DNA and then to consistently renew itself.

As a result, Raytheon had 2011 sales of $25 billion. It is a global company with tens of thousands of employees, a major industrial employer in a number of states and one of the largest in Massachusetts and Southern Arizona. The year 2012 is the 60th anniversary of the company’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange -- and Raytheon has been a member of the Standard & Poor’s 100 from the index’s launch in 1983 right through to today. 

“The Little Engine That Could”
There is a wonderful early proof-point of the Raytheon “can-do” spirit in an old photo of Marshall taken in the 1930s. The photo shows Marshall reaching for the handle of a telephone in a very businesslike manner. Tucked underneath on the shelf of the telephone table is a book that is also within arm’s reach. Its title is, “The Little Engine That Could.”

Raytheon’s innovative “can-do” spirit would play out again and again in the decades that followed. There is the story from the early World War II era of how Raytheon’s brilliant engineer, Percy Spencer, figured out how to mass produce magnetrons, the heart of radar, which were desperately needed for the war effort. And then there was Percy Spencer’s encore following World War II, when he discovered microwave cooking. Raytheon named the new oven a “Radarange.”

Raytheon’s innovative spirit has expressed itself over and over: in the shipboard SG radar that made such a difference in “victory at sea” during World War II; in the Raytheon-guided missile, the Lark, that made history with the intercept of an aircraft target in flight; in the computer that guided Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon. The company’s work led to world-renowned defense systems such as the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System; early-warning, phased array radars that have helped keep the peace; the Standard Missile-3 that rose to intercept a failing satellite; and to what is described as the most amazing high definition image ever captured of our home planet, our “Blue Marble”.

In sensing, effects, C3I and Mission Support, in the leveraging of domain knowledge in air, land, sea, space and cyber, Raytheon today is projecting its technology and innovation leadership far into the future.

The company has accomplished this feat of continual innovation by retaining and attracting the best talent, by encouraging diversity of thought and new ideas, and also by joining with businesses such as E-Systems, Texas Instruments Defense and Hughes Defense, and their tremendous legacies, to name a few. These and other like-minded technology organizations have added their own rich heritage of innovation: from use of the first network email and the “@” sign as an email tool (Bolt, Beranek and Newman, now Raytheon BBN Technologies) to Raytheon’s world-class expertise in cybersecurity.

Raytheon has expanded its geographic dimensions as well, from the third floor of a building in Kendall Square to important relationships that help secure peace and security around the world. The company truly has a global presence, selling products and services to customers in some 80 nations around the world. For a deeper sense of this global presence, visit

Raytheon’s innovative spirit also extends far beyond engineering and manufacturing to include areas such as corporate governance, ethics education, diversity, talent development, financial management, information technology, supply chain management, safety and wellness, sustainability and support for our communities.

Compelling examples of innovation across the enterprise include an award-winning ethics education program; world-class safety programs for employees; award-winning sustainability efforts; widely recognized diversity programs; innovative initiatives to support our men and women in uniform through efforts such as the Hashtags4Heroes campaign; and experiential initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through Raytheon’s MathMovesU® flagship STEM program.

What started 90 years ago with a single-minded vision and a lab marked out in chalk and string today engages tens of thousands of talented employees around the world in a process of continual renewal -- through technology and innovation leadership, in pursuit of customer success. For 90 years and counting -- yesterday, today and into tomorrow -- Raytheon has become a company greater than the sum of its parts.  

Raytheon Throughout the Years

Raytheon’s 90th Anniversary

Video: Raytheon's Historic Timeline

Raytheon’s 90th Anniversary

Infographic: 90 Years of Technology & Innovation Leadership

Raytheon’s 90th Anniversary Infographic
(click to enlarge)

Citation From the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Recognition Day, July 7, 2012

News Release

Raytheon marks 90 years of customer focus, technology and innovation leadership

More Information

Raytheon History

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