Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.




Frank Lee Vernon, Jr. was born in Dallas, TX on Sept. 16, 1927. He graduated from Highland Park High School (Dallas) in 1944. In 1950 he married Lynne Van Couvering. They have

3 children and 3 grandchildren. They presently reside in Pasadena, CA.




BSEE from Southern Methodist University 1949. After spending one year at SMU starting in 1944 he joined the Navy and served from 1945-1946.  At that time he returned to Dallas and re-entered SMU in the Electrical Engineering Dept. to complete his degree. While at SMU he was elected to the Blue Key Honor Society and to Kappa Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary fraternity.


MSEE from the University of California (Berkeley) in 1952.

The subject of his Master¡¯s thesis was ¡°Measurement of High

Level Microwave Power¡±.


PhD (Electrical Engineering and Physics) from the California Institute of Technology in 1959. His PhD dissertation was ¡°The Theory of a General Quantum System Interacting with a Linear Dissipative System¡±. His thesis adviser was the noted physicist Richard P. Feynman. He was a Research Assistant in 1954, a Teaching Assistant and Institute Scholar at Cal Tech in 1955, a Hughes Aircraft Company Doctoral Fellow from 1956 through 1959, and a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in 1960.


Thesis Synopsis:


Motivation for this work came from the development of the new class of so-called quantum devices that, at the time, were masers.  These devices depended for their operation in a central way on the energy levels of the active media and the associated quantum mechanical description. Lasers had not yet been demonstrated but were not far behind.  The question then arose as to how quantum concepts such as spontaneous emission, Einstein A and B coefficients, and energy levels could be reconciled with linear circuit concepts such as resistance, inductance, capacitance, kTB or, more precisely, Nyquist noise.  These notions needed clarification in order to proceed with engineering applications.


The formalism was developed using Feynman¡¯s space-time formulation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics whereby the behavior of a system of interest, which is coupled to other external systems, which constitute an ¡°environment¡±.   The environmental effects are included in a general class of functionals (influence functionals) in terms of the coordinates of the system of interest only.  In this analysis the linear system constitutes the environment.   

Using this approach it was possible to bring the quantum and classical concepts together in a coherent and logical way.


Professional Experience: 


Assistant Recorder, Geophysical Division, Texas Company, 1949-1950; Research Fellow, California Institute of Technology, 1959-60.


In 1951 Dr. Vernon joined the Microwave Laboratory at Hughes Aircraft Company as a Member of the Technical Staff and remained there until 1961 at which time he was Head of the Microwave Physics Section.


In 1961 he joined The Aerospace Corporation as a Member of the Technical Staff in the Electronics Research Laboratory.  Since that time he has been Head of the Low Temperature Section, the Solid State Electronics Department, and the Physical Electronics Department all within the Electronics Research Laboratory.  Currently, he has the position of Senior Scientist in the Photonics Technology Department, Electronics and Photonics Laboratory. At present his primary responsibility is directing the laser beacon activity which, in turn, supports the Air Force surveillance satellite programs.


His professional activity has included work in quantum electronics, low temperature physics, microwave physics, atmospheric propagation, lasers and laser applications.


His professional affiliations include membership in Sigma Xi, The American Physical Society, the IEEE, and the AAAS. Within the IEEE, he is a member of the Lasers and Electro-optics Society (LEOS) and Microwave Theory and Techniques

professional groups. He is a Life member of the IEEE.  From 1982-1990 he was an officer of the Los Angeles Chapter of LEOS and from 1988-1990 he was Chairman of that organization.





Additional activities:




In high school he played football for 3 years and had the good fortune of being on the same team with two players (Doak Walker and Bobby Layne) who eventually became members of the football Hall of Fame.  In a way he had the bad fortune of playing the same position as one of them (Layne).  However, on the bright side he had a good seat on the 50 yard line for every game.


During his first year at SMU he went out for the team and made the squad but did not play. Later that year his old high school coach came to SMU in the position of head coach.  That year SMU had a late Spring training and at the end of it he was playing first string quarterback.      


That same year, since it was during WWII, he took a competitive exam to qualify for entrance to Annapolis.  There were 3 appointments to be awarded to the congressional district (whose representative was Hatton Sumner).  He was awarded one of these but did not take it because of deciding not to make a career out of the military and preferring to pursue a more scientific professional path.  However, since the age of 18 (along with the accompanying certainty of being drafted into the armed services) was approaching he took the exam to go into the Navy school for Radio Technicians. He passed the exam and entered the service in late July, 1945.  Of course, the war was all over in August but he still had to wait for almost a year while all the other servicemen with more service time were discharged.  While in boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Station he tried to get on to the Great Lakes football team whose coach was Paul Brown, already famous as the coach of Ohio State.   At that time Great Lakes was ranked no.3 in the country behind West Point and Notre Dame.  Anyway, Brown didn¡¯t think much of the Southwest Conference in general but agreed to let him try out for the team.  However, it was determined that he was scheduled to attend Radio Technician school and, therefore, was on special assignment and could not be allowed to try out for the team.


After his discharge and upon returning to SMU he decided that playing football would take too much time away from academic studies and did not try out for the team again.


He has always liked sports of all kinds.  He was manager of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church softball and basketball teams for a number of years.  As he started working and going to graduate school there was less time for many of those things.  So tennis became his main competitive sport. He managed to win a few local tournaments (but nothing that would make Pete Sampras nervous).  He was Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 513 for two years during which his son became an Eagle Scout.  The specialty of that troop was backpacking - in local mountains and desert as well as in the Sierras.  


Later, he and his children started skiing which they still do as time allows.




His family has always had an enthusiastic interest in music.  His mother was church organist and taught music in public school.  His father was choir director at one time but mostly enjoyed singing in choirs and with other groups. His wife and her family have also participated in musical activities.  He took piano lessons for a number of years when he was in Dallas.  His best accomplishment was to be asked to play in Young Artists of Dallas Recital (or perhaps Concert).  His last teacher was Mrs. Rutherford who was a member of the music faculty at SMU and later became head of that department.  Again, he felt that too much time would be necessary to become truly proficient and discontinued taking lessons during his first year at SMU.




Except for classified projects, much of the technical work with which he has been involved is obvious from his publications. His thesis work has attracted interest in areas that he has not been following and has not had a chance to review and analyze carefully.   That work will be discussed and reviewed to some extent in two books (by different authors ¨C one by Ian Duck, Professor of Physics at Rice University and former Cal Tech student and another by Laurie Brown, one of Feynman¡¯s first students) which will be coming out in the near future. 


The activity that has occupied much of his time is development of a technique for using ground-based lasers to calibrate on-orbit surveillance satellites and to assist in troubleshooting in the case of malfunction.  In fact, there are numerous additional uses for this system depending on the characteristics of the particular satellite being tested.  His group pioneered this technique and has used it successfully all over the world.  This includes places such as Korea, Ascension Is., Diego Garcia, and Hawaii.  In the process of developing this procedure his group developed coherent signal sources (CW lasers and CW OPO¡¯s) for the SWIR (short wavelength infrared wavelength region).  His group has designed all of the necessary hardware and software to track and irradiate satellites.  At present one of the main thrusts is to refine the system to accommodate low orbiting satellites.


At the same time the beacon activity has been under development (since 1971) his group was fortunate to be able to carry out a number of other interesting investigations.  These include:


(a)                 High frequency and millimeter wave properties of superconducting point contacts, thin film tunneling junctions and squids (11 papers since 1970).

(b)                 Cosmic Background Radiation at 3.3 mm.  This was the second independent measurement which showed that the radiation followed the Planck distribution rather than the Rayleigh-Jeans curve.

(c)                 Irradiation of the Delta Star satellite (low orbiting) using a ground-based laser.  This was performed using one of the optical beam director telescopes at Malabar, Fla.   

(d)                 Development of a diode-pumped 1-W continuous wave Er:YAG 3 micron laser.  This is one of the laser sources developed for beacon applications.

(e)                 Studies of satellite-to-satellite laser communication.

(f)                   Studies of two-way laser communication between satellite and ground.

(g)                 Measurements of the radiation sensitivity of Nd:YAG and LiNbO3.

(h)                 Studies of brilliant pebbles lasercom.

(i)                   Studies of loss mechanisms for guided waves in a nominally loss-free medium. (theoretical) 

(j)         Presently, his group is conducting studies into coupling high power (approx. 3 W) of CW SWIR radiation at a wavelength of 3 microns from the output of an OPO into a single mode fiber.



Frank Lee Vernon, Jr.







1.  F.L. Vernon, Jr. ¡°Application of the Microwave      Homodyne,¡± IRE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation AP-4, 110 (1952).


2.  R.P. Feynman, F.L. Vernon, Jr., and R.W. Hellwarth,   ¡°Geometrical Representation of the Schroedinger Equation for Solving Maser Problems,¡± J. Appl. Phys. 28, 49 (1957).

3.  F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Behavior of a Backward Wave Oscillator with External Feedback,¡± IRE National Convention Record, Part 3, Electron Devices, 91 (1957).


4.  J. Munushian, W.R. Sooy and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°A       Microwave Meacham Bridge Oscillator,¡± Proc. Of IRE 48,

   1297 (1960).


5.  R.P. Feynman and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°The Theory of a General Quantum System Interacting with a Linear Dissipative System,¡±  Ann. Of Phys. 24, 118 (1963).


6.  M.A.R. LeBlanc and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Observations on the Behavior and Structure of Flux Jumps in a Hard Superconductor,¡± Phys. Lett. 13, 291 (1964).


7.  E. Lax and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Microwave Phonon-Assisted Tunneling in Superconductors,¡± Phys. Rev. Lett. 14, 256 (1965).    


8.  H. Conrad, L. Rice, E.L. Fletcher and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Microstructure Associated with the Peak Effect (Maximum Critical Current Density) in Superconducting Niobium,¡± Mat. Sci. and Eng. 1, 360 (1967).


9.  R.J. Pedersen and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Effect of Thin Film Resistance on Low Impedance Tunneling Measurements,¡± Appl. Phys. Lett. 10, 29 (1967).


10. F.L. Vernon, Jr. And R.J. Pedersen, ¡°Relaxation Oscillations in Josephson Junctions,¡± J. Appl. Phys. 39, 2661 (1968).


11. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Shot Noise in Josephson Point Contacts,¡± Appl. Phys. Lett. 16, 115 (1970).


12. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Current Noise in Josephson Contacts,¡± Phys. Rev. Lett. 25, 588 (1970).

- 2 -


13. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Response of Highly  Damped Josephson Junctions to External, Low Frequency Noise Currents,¡± Phys. Rev. 2, 4694 (1970).


14. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Noise Voltage in Josephson Junctions,¡± Phys. Lett. 32A, 155 (1970).


15. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Response of Superconducting Point Contacts to High Frequency Radiation,¡± Phys. Lett. 35A, 349 (1971).


16. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Noise in Josephson Point Contacts,¡± Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Low Temperature Physics, 4-10 September 1970, Eizo Kanda, ed., Academic Press of Japan, 455 (1971).


17. M.F. Millea, M. McColl, R.J. Pedersen and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡±Cosmic Background Radiation at l = 3.3 mm,¡± Phys. Rev. Lett. 26, 919 (1971).


18. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°High Frequency Response of Josephson Point Contacts,¡± J. Appl. Phys. 43, 3174 (1972).


19. F.L. Vernon, Jr., R.J. Pedersen and R.D. Chodzko, ¡°Infrared Laser Beacon Experiment (U),¡± Proceedings of the Sixth Conference on Laser Technology, Vol. II, 665 (March 1974).


20. M. McColl, R.J. Pedersen, M.F. Bottjer, M.F. Millea, A.H. Silver and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°The Super-Schottky Diode Mixer,¡± Appl. Phys. Lett. 28, 159 (1976).


21. M. McColl, M.F. Millea, A.H. Silver, M.F. Bottjer, R.J. Pedersen and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°The Super-Schottky Microwave Mixer,¡± IEEE Trans. On Magnetics MAG-13, 221 (1977).


22. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Millimeter Wave Behavior of Superconducting Point Contact Squid,¡± IEEE Trans. On Magnetics MAG-13, 389 (1977).


23. F.L. Vernon, Jr., M.F. Millea, M.F. Bottjer, A.H. Silver, R.J. Pedersen and M. McColl, ¡°The Super-Schottky Diode,¡± IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech. MTT-25, 286 (1977).


24. F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°Military Applications of Superconductivity, Session Summary,¡± Applications of Cryogenic Technology, J.R. Missig and R.W. Vance, ed., 233 (1978).


25. L.W. Aukerman, Y. Song, F.L. Vernon, Jr., G.A. Evans and J.Z Wilcox, ¡°Radiation Effects on Semiconductor Optical Devices for Space Communications,¡± Laser and Laser Systems Reliability, G.A. Evans, ed., Proc. SPIE 328, 56 (1982).


26. L.W. Aukerman, F.L. Vernon, Jr. And Y. Song, ¡°Radiation Threshold Levels for Noise Degradation of Photodiodes,¡± Optical Engineering 23, 678 (Sept/Oct 1984).


27. H. Suhl, F.L. Vernon, Jr. and W.R. Fenner, ¡° ¡®Bootstrap¡¯

Loss Mechanism for Electromagnetic Waves Guided in a                Nominally Loss Free Medium,¡± Appl. Phys Letters. 53, 2126 (1988).


28. F. L. Vernon, Jr., R. J. Pedersen, H. Montes and F. S.

Simmons, ¡°Delta Star Ground Laser Experiment,¡±         Proceedings from the Delta Star Mission Review, September 17 and 18, 1990 (U) pp. 619 ¨C 646.


29. Da-Wun Chen, Curt L. Fincher, Todd S. Rose, Frank L.

    Vernon and Renny A. Fields, ¡°Diode-pumped 1-W continuous          

    wave Er:YAG 3-mm laser,¡± Opt. Lett. 24, 385 (1999).


30. F.L. Vernon, R.A. Fields, H. Kanter, H. Montes, D.     

Chen, D. Chang, and T.S. Rose, ¡°Infrared Laser Beacons for On-Orbit IR Sensor Calibration¡±, invited paper given at the 1999 AMOS Technical Conference (held in Maui, Hawaii Aug. 30 ¨C Sept. 3, 1999) and  published in the conference proceedings. 




 Internal (Aerospace)


1. H. Kanter and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡°IR Sensitive Detectors,¡± ATM No. 88(8381-03)-1, 21 Sept. 1988.


2. H. Suhl, F.L. Vernon, Jr. and W.R. Fenner, ¡° ¡®Bootstrap¡¯ Loss Mechanism for Electromagnetic Waves Guided in a Nominally Loss Free Medium,¡± ATR-88(8381-01)m 23 January 1989.


3. R.J. Pedersen, F.L. Vernon, Jr., R.A. Fields, ¡°BP Lasercom Estimates (U),¡± ATM No. 89(4020-01)-9, Feb. 1989.


4. F.S. Simmons and F.L. Vernon, Jr., ¡±Teal Ruby/AMOS Measurements Plan for Directed Energy Experiments (U),¡± Aerospace Report No. TOR-0086(6759-01)-1, August 1986, AS 84-05299.


5. F.L. Vernon, Jr., W.R. Fenner, R.A. Fields, C.T. Mueller, W.A. Kolasinski and W.F. Woodward, ¡°Radiation Sensitivity of Nd:YAG and LiNbO3,¡± Aerospace Report No. TOR-0090(5409-16)-1, 1 August 1990.


6. F.L. Vernon, Jr., R.J. Pedersen, H. Montes, and F.S. Simmons, ¡°Delta Star Ground Laser Experiment,¡± Aerospace No. TOR-0091(6069-01)-2, 12 September 1990.