William P. Lear
Born Jun 26 1902
- Died May 14 1978
Radio Apparatus Car Radio
Patent Number(s) 1,944,139
Though his name is most often associated with corporate jet airplanes, William Lear earlier made
his mark in car radios and by inventing the eight-track tape player.
Lear’s eight-track player had good audio quality and was easily adaptable to home and car use. Lear’s eight-track doubled the amount of music able to be recorded on a single tape cartridge.
The endless loop tape concept of eight tracks continue to be used in cinema movie projections, but in these the spool is actively rotated and does not depend on tension like eight-track players. The eight-track was the first truly portable format for music and was a great commercial success. It represented a progressive step for audio recording and home entertainment, but the problems involved also pushed the field for better solutions.
Born in Hannibal, Missouri, Lear attended public school in Chicago through the eighth grade.
At age 16 he joined the Navy, where he learned radio electronics. Following World War I he
took up flying.
An early Lear design, a practical car radio, launched the
RCA purchased a radio amplifier design of Lear's, a universal unit usable in their entire line.
Lear designed the eight-track player in the 1960s.
Lear began designing navigation aids for aircraft in the 1930s, and under the names
Lear Corporation and LearAvia Corporation, filled more than $100 million in defense
orders during World War II.
After the war, he developed a lightweight automatic pilot.
In 1962 he sold his interest in Lear, Inc. to form Learjet, which became the
leading supplier of corporate jets within five years.
After Learjet he
devoted his energies to development of an antipollution steam engine.
In the 1970s, his aircraft designs included the Canadair Challenger and the
Lear Fan, an airplane built entirely from composites. Lear died during development of
the Lear Fan, and although there were a number of advance orders it was never put into production.