In 1908, an enterprising young Londoner called Alfred Charles Cossor reached the pinnacle of his dreams when the small electronics firm he founded, the A.C. Cossor Company (a forerunner to Raytheon Systems Limited), was first listed as a private company.
Over the next 100 years, that once privately-owned firm has been central to some of the greatest technological advances in British history, from the ubiquitous Melody Maker wireless radio sets that piped swing music and BBC news into U.K. living rooms during the 1920s, to the Chain Home Radar that helped protect the nation during the Battle of Britain.
It is unlikely that Mr. Cossor could have envisioned the tremendous impact his small firm would have on his nation when he founded his electronics company 100 years ago. Yet his legacy lives on today in the form of Raytheon UK, a leader that continues to deliver defence and security solutions.
From the pioneering days of cathode and X-ray tubes, to the most advanced airborne ground surveillance capabilities in the world today, the transatlantic technology partnership that entrepreneur Alfred Charles Cossor began 100 years ago continues to help make the U.K. a safer and better place to live now.
The Cossor family, which had been in business since 1859, was developing vacuum tubes at the birth of the electronics era. The eldest son, Alfred, began his own company to manufacture equipment for wireless technology at a time when radios across Britain were about to become household necessities. By 1927, Cossor launched his famous Melody Maker radio set that would soon become a centerpiece of British homes. By 1936, Cossor achieved another historic milestone by becoming the first company in the U.K. to sell a television set.
Yet, it was the global turbulence that emerged in the late 1930s that brought the Cossor company together with fate. Experiments in 1935 proved that radio waves could be bounced off aircraft and the echo picked up and interpreted by a receiving station to determine the bearing and distance of the aircraft. This secret technology was the Radio Detection and Ranging system, a device more commonly known today by its acronym – radar.
A.C. Cossor was selected by the Air Ministry to build the critical receiving units and operator displays that made Britain’s Chain Home air defence radar network usable. At the onset of the Battle of Britain, Chain Home, the first operational radar system in the world, included 19 transmitting and receiving stations that provided a protective umbrella from the Shetlands to Lands End. With Chain Home, the RAF had a precious 20-minute warning to deny the Luftwaffe the element of surprise, and scramble fighter squadrons to form welcoming committees for their uninvited visitors.
Help From Across the Atlantic
However, as the war progressed, British industry was unable to mass-produce the tens of thousands of magnetron tubes, at the heart of radar’s function, needed for the total war effort. Across the Atlantic in the United States, a small and relatively unknown firm, Raytheon, had been experimenting with microwave tubes while actually producing transmitting tubes. At the suggestion of MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, a meeting was arranged between British scientists and Raytheon engineer Percy L. Spencer. Impressed, the U.K. awarded, through the MIT Radiation Laboratory, a contract to Raytheon to supply the magnetrons.
Ultimately, Raytheon became the major Allied supplier of magnetrons during the war years. And for the future of allied defence, the events also brought together, for the first time on a common mission, Percy Spencer’s Raytheon from the U.S. and Alfred Charles Cossor’s A.C. Cossor company in the U.K.
From WWII to the Defence and Security Challenges of a New Millennium
After the Second World War, both the A.C. Cossor company and Raytheon continued to lead efforts to make the U.K. and allied nations safer and more efficient. A.C. Cossor continued to innovate with radar, introducing the first commercial aircraft radar systems to guide aircraft to and from British airports. In 1961, Raytheon acquired the A.C. Cossor company.
With a single set of signatures, the research and development treasures of two great companies were bound together with a focus towards a new era of technology and innovation. This new company soon began to leave its own mark on the British Isles, and with the acquisition of Hughes Defence and Texas Instruments in 1997, became Raytheon Systems Limited.
Raytheon Company was founded in Cambridge, Mass., as the American Appliance Company in 1922, a pivotal time in American history. Emerging from the depths of a severe post-war depression that wiped out jobs and forged a widening chasm between the privileged and the poor was a breed of entrepreneurs with a driving ambition to succeed and willingness to gamble on it. It is against this backdrop that the founders of Raytheon became business partners. In the more than 80 years since, the company would become known for many more major technological advancements that have changed the course of world history.
In 2020, Raytheon Company and the United Technologies Corporation aerospace businesses merged to become Raytheon Technologies Corporation, headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. The new aerospace and defence entity provides advanced systems and services for commercial, military and government customers worldwide and comprises four industry-leading businesses – Collins Aerospace Systems, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Raytheon Missiles & Defence.
Raytheon UK is a landed company that sits within the Raytheon Intelligence & Space business.
To learn more, visit Raytheon Technologies global website.