Russell Varian (1899-1959)
Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 4, 1995

Russell Varian (1899-1959)

Russell Varian and his brother Sigurd spent their early childhood in Palo Alto but then moved with their parents to Halcyon, near San Luis Obispo.

Russell's studies at Stanford University went on the rocks during the Great Depression. He returned as a laboratory assistant to Professor W. W. Hansen and wangled permission to pursue a project he and Sigurd had developed. The university was to take a share of any earnings on the project as a return for the rental of facilities.

Together the Varian brothers developed the klystron tube that became the basis of microwave radar and helped the Allies win World War II. Russell was the inventor of the pair, finding ways to put Sigurd's ideas into workable devices. With colleagues, the two founded Varian Associates. The firm was located initially in San Carlos but later it became the first company to move into Stanford Industrial Park.

Russell Varian also sparked applications of Hansen's invention of spectroscopes, magnetometers and the linear electron accelerator.

A great outdoorsman, he devoted part of his earnings to saving Coast Range redwoods.

Dorothy Varian, Russell's widow, told the story of the brothers and their career in a book titled, "The Inventor and The Pilot."

--Peter Gauvin
@head:Sigurd Varian (1901-1961) As a Pan American Airways pilot in Latin America, Sigurd Varian perceived the need for radar to help aviators and airports locate one another.

Teamed with his brother, he took the lead in building practical models embodying Russell's ideas. During the Great Depression, Stanford University made lab space available to the Varians and later reaped a share of the royalties from their first big invention, the klystron tube.

Wartime klystron development was based at Sperry Gyroscope plant on Long Island, New York. After the war ended, the brothers and associates, Professor W. W. Hansen, Leonard I. Schiff and Edward L. Ginzton, relocated to the Peninsula. @id:--Peter Gauvin This is the 44th in a series of profiles on the "Creators of the Legacy," 56 people who were honored last year by the Palo Alto Centennial for their roles in creating Palo Alto in all its aspects. 

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