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Percy Spencer, Maine Native and Microwave Pioneer: Honorary UMaine Degree and Later Life

Honorary Degree

In 1961, the University of Maine awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science to Percy Spencer. 

Photo of Percy Spencer receiving his honorary degree in 1961

Here are the remarks that University of Maine president Lloyd Elliott made during the ceremony:

“Born in Howland, Maine; starting to work in a spool mill at the age of twelve, he soon developed an interest in wireless communications which led him to enlist in the Navy, thereby gaining the opportunity to attend a wireless telegraphy school; in 1925 he joined what later became the Raytheon Company, with which company he is still associated, having risen through the ranks to become senior vice president, a director, and manager of microwave and power tube operations; his penetrating research resulted in obtaining over one hundred patents in the field of vacuum tubes and electronics; his ability combined with his leadership and capacity to inspire men made possible amazing attainments in World War II, as a result of which he was given an award by the United States Army and three awards by the United States Navy, including the Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Through your rare talent to develop simple solutions for complex problems, your insatiable curiosity and creativeness, your high standards, combined with warm and generous humanitarianism, you have made a lasting impression upon the pages of our time; in recognition of a life of service to mankind, the Trustees of this University take unusual pleasure in conferring upon you, a son of this State, the honorary degree of DOCTOR OF SCIENCE.”


Percy Spencer, Later in Life


Percy Spencer worked for the Raytheon company for 39 years, retiring in 1964. He was the inventor of record for over 130 patents, all of which were assigned to Raytheon. He did not get rich from his role in the invention of the microwave oven. Like most inventors who made discoveries while employed by a company, they had no rights to inventions made on the job. Nevertheless, he remained a loyal employee and retired as a senior vice president. 

In 1959, Raytheon opened the Spencer Laboratory, dedicated to the "field of microwave tube technology", named after Percy Spencer.

Photocopy of the program from the dedication of the Spencer Laboratory in 1959.













Percy Spencer passed away on September 8, 1970, at the age of 76. He's buried in Newton, Massachusetts.

When he passed away, microwave ovens were still an expensive addition to any kitchen, but today, over 90% of American homes have this amazing invention that revolutionized how food was prepared.


Further reading about Percy Spencer and Microwaves

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