The John W. Coltman Archive

Biography of John W. Coltman

Dr. John W. Coltman, physicist and retired research executive of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, has devoted much of his spare time to the study of the flute in its musical, historical and acoustical aspects. His research in musical acoustics has contributed significantly to what is known today about the behavior of the flute and organ pipes. In his professional career Dr. Coltman has received many honors for his invention and development of the x-ray image amplifier, now universally used in medical fluoroscopy. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, holds 22 patents and has published some 70 technical papers.

John W. Coltman received his bachelor's degree in physics at Case (now Case Western Reserve University) in 1937 and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics at the University of Illinois in 1941. Immediately afterward he joined the Research Laboratories of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, engaging in wartime research in microwave magnetrons. Later he invented and developed the x-ray image amplifier. For this work he has received the Longstreth Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Roentgen Medal of the German Roentgen-museum in Remscheid, Germany, and the Gold Medal of the Radiological Society of America.

In 1949 he was named manager of the Electronics and Nuclear Physics Department, supervising work in nuclear physics, underwater sound, optical pickup tubes, semiconductors, and television. In 1960 he became Associate Director of the Research Laboratory, responsible for a group of departments including Electronics, Nuclear Physics, Mechanics, and Computer Science, and in 1974 Director of R&D Planning for the Research and Development Center. In this position he was responsible for the formulation of the entire research program on behalf of the corporation. He retired in 1980.

Coltman took up the study of the flute in early school years, playing in college and graduate school, and has continued as an active participant in amateur musical activities. While a student at Case his acquaintance with Prof. Dayton C. Miller sparked an interest in the acoustical and historical aspects of the instrument, and in the 1950's he began a collection of instruments of the flute family which now numbers about 200. A little later he started inquiries into the mechanisms of sound production of these instruments, establishing a small laboratory in his home to pursue this work as a hobby. Several of his papers on this subject have contributed significantly to what is known today about the acoustics of the flute and organ pipe. In addition to the above mentioned recognition, Coltman received the Order of Merit from Westinghouse, was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has served on many committees of the U. S. Government and was a member of the Commission on Human Resources of the National Research Council. He is the author of some 70 technical publications and hold 22 patents.

Coltman married Charlotte Beard of Urbana, Illinois in 1941. They have two married daughters and four grandchildren. Among other pursuits are sailing, woodworking and amateur radio, for which he has been licensed since 1932.