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THE M9

Dreamed 1940 by David Parkinson

In 1940, when Nazi armies were victorious everywhere, David B. Parkinson was working at Bell Laboratories, designing a potentiometer for civilian telephones.

One night, he dreamed he was on the Continent close to an Allied artillery piece. The remarkable thing about this gun was that every shell it fired nailed a German plane. Parkinson wrote: "After three or four shots one of the men in the crew smiled at me and beckoned me to come closer to the gun. When I drew near he pointed to the exposed end of the left trunnion. Mounted there was the control potentiometer of my level recorder. There was no mistaking it. It was the identical item."

He proposed the idea at work. Bell Lab engineers quickly saw that Parkinson's potentiometer could indeed be applied to antiaircraft gun control. The M9 gun director was the practical result of Parkinson's dream. The M-9 didn't bring down a German bomber with every shot, but it lowered the number of shells fired per kill from thousands to about a hundred--a phenomenal change. In one week in August of 1944, the M9's were credited with destroying 89 of 91 V-1 rockets launched from the Antwerp area toward England.

In short, Parkinson's dream, and his insistence in telling it--ACTING on his dream--greatly strengthened Britain's defenses against the Luftwaffe and helped defeat Hitler.

Most of this account comes from George Schindler's "Dreaming of Victory" in New Scientist, p. 53, May 31, 1997; info on shells fired came from an IEEE abstract of an article on the M9; see their website.



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