AF Harvey: an enduring legacy

24 May 2013
By Kate Parker
Radar dish

Radar technology has been with us for more than a century.

Dr Arthur Frank Harvey FIEE

'Exceptionally brilliant and likely to go far’: esteemed engineer Dr AF Harvey.

IET's 2012 AF Harvey Engineering Research Prize winner Prof Hugh Griffiths FIET

Making good use of the IET research award: Prof Hugh Griffiths, Royal Academy of Engineering/Thales UK Chair in RF Sensors.

This week’s AF Harvey Prize lecture marks the latest stepping stone in one man’s prolific career and enduring legacy.

The life of the esteemed engineer from Wales, Dr Arthur Frank Harvey, who died at the age of 96, continues to be celebrated seven years after his death through an annual award named in his honour.

This week saw the presentation of the prestigious AF Harvey Prize Lecture at IET London: Savoy Place. In ‘From a different perspective: Principles, practice and potential of bistatic radar’, Professor Hugh Griffiths FIET, one of the world’s top minds on radar research and the second Harvey Prize recipient, outlined how his work is helping to improve air traffic control and border monitoring systems.

The event was a great success, and the audience heard how “modern technology, especially digital processing power, is opening up new possibilities, and there are plenty of new applications that are likely to benefit.”

Techniques being explored by Prof Griffiths, of University College London, could result in radar systems that are extremely difficult to jam because the enemy does not know where half of the radar actually is. Contemporary radars bounce electromagnetic pulses off targets and pick up the reflections with antennas at the same site, but with bistatic radar there is no need to put the transmitter and receiver in the same place.

Commenting on the lecture IET president Prof Andy Hopper, said: “Our judging panel were presented with some very high calibre candidates, but Prof Griffiths’ work shone through. I really hope this prize will help him to continue his ground breaking work with radars.”

Supporting research

The AF Harvey Prize was awarded for the first time last year to neuroscientist Prof Edward S Boyden for his innovative research project to develop a system that electronically detects epileptic seizures and prevent them from progressing. The Prize money allowed Prof Boyden to develop the project further to create an implantable prosthetic that detects electrical activity associated with seizures, and then use light to rapidly drive or silence key neurons, halting a seizure.

Sir John O'Reilly, chairman of the IET AF Harvey Search and Selection Committee, added: “The IET AF Harvey Engineering Research Prize is a major annual award, honouring an exceptional individual researcher for a specific outstanding achievement in a defined area of engineering research with promising prospects for yet further significant advances. The prize money of £300,000 is used to support further research by the recipient, contributing additionally to the benefit of society.”

The man himself

So, who is AF Harvey and what is his connection with the IET?

Dr Arthur Frank Harvey FIEE was born on 21 March 1910 in Ebbw Vale, Monmouthshire, South Wales, the eldest of three sons born to Mr and Mrs Arthur Hounsell Harvey. His father was a chief draughtsman at the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co. Ltd. In October 1927 Harvey received a state scholarship and entered University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Cardiff.

A brilliant student, Harvey completed his BSc in electrical engineering subjects in 1929. He also passed the final degree examination in physics as an extra subject and was also awarded the Page Gold Medal for the best student in the engineering department. In June 1930 he graduated from the University College of South Wales, Monmouthshire, with a first class BSc honours in electrical engineering. He was described by the University as being the ‘most brilliant student the department has had for many years’ and as ‘exceptionally brilliant and likely to go far’.

As well as his academic qualifications, Harvey gained practical experience in two vacation periods at Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company Ltd. in Manchester.

In 1930, Harvey was awarded a prestigious three-year industrial bursary from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, during which he worked as an engineering apprentice at the South Wales Power Company before taking up a college apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company Ltd, Manchester. In 1933, he joined the General Electric Company, Wembley, as a research assistant in the Research Laboratories.

After his bursary ended in 1934, he worked as a technical assistant at Johnson and Phillips Ltd in Charlton, London, then from 1935 to 1938 he worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.

He was admitted to the degree of DPhil in April 1940 at Jesus College, University of Oxford, during this time working in the Engineering Laboratory, Oxford, on high frequency thermionic tubes. He later moved to the Cavendish Laboratory, Trinity College, Cambridge, where he carried on with the same work.

He continued in the research and development of radar and microwave applications during and after the Second World War, including work on the magnetron, of considerable importance during the War. In 1939 he had joined the Ministry of Supply as a scientific officer, becoming senior scientific officer in 1946 and then principal scientific officer in 1950.

In 1960 Harvey won the IEEE Microwave Prize for his paper on ‘Periodic and guiding structures at microwave frequencies’, IRE Trans. On Microwave Theory and Techniques.

By the 1980s he had moved to work for the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern. During this time his work included research and development on millimetre wavelengths, ferrite devices, quantum electronics and coherent-light techniques. His prolific career also included the completion of several papers and two books on microwaves and lasers.


Dr Harvey died on 26 March 2006 at the age of 96. During his life he had set up a trust fund with the Charities Aid Foundation, but upon his death this fund, together with the residue of his estate, was left to the IET, and transfer to the IET was completed in 2010.

Dr Harvey entrusted the IET to use his bequest for the furtherance of research into the fields of medical, microwave, radar and laser engineering. The Board of Trustees agreed that the available funds would be used to offer an annual engineering research prize in one of the research fields each year, covering them all over a three-year cycle.

The Trust Funds have been established to receive donations and bequests from members and others in a tax efficient way. These funds typically support scholarships, awards and prizes. The Dr AF Harvey Fund is a part of the IEE Benefactors Trust Fund. This Trust Fund was established for such charitable purposes connected with the Institution or connected with the advancement of education in electrical engineering generally.


If you are interested in contributing to the IET’s awards programme, please contact Linda Deleay (tel +44 (0)1438 765694; email ldeleay@theiet.org).

The March print issue of Member News (issue 32) featured an interview with Prof Griffiths in which he talks about his career and his passion for radar.

You can also view Prof Griffiths’ lecture on IET.tv.

For more information on the IET AF Harvey Prize Lecture, visit http://conferences.theiet.org/harvey/index.cfm

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