The history of cellular phone technology began in December 1947 with a Bell Labs internal report in which Rae Young suggested the hexagonal cell concept for a cellular mobile telephone system.
During 1942-1945 Young worked on radar and communication systems for the US Armed Services. In 1945 Young began work on mobile radiotelephone systems in vehicles for coverage of urban areas and along highways. He developed systems for reducing interference between mobile systems that are closely spaced in frequency and location. Young served as chairman of a Radio Manufacturers Association (RMA) subcommittee TR8.9 on systems standards for mobile communications equipment.
In 1947, W. Rae Young proposed what are now called cell phones in a report to the RMA Systems Committee. Coworker Douglas H. Ring at Bell Labs, liked Young's idea about locating many mobile phone towers in a hexagonal cellular arrangement throughout each city so that every mobile phone user would be able to communicate from at least one cell through the telephone system. Douglas Ring credited W. Rae Young with suggesting the hexagonal cell layout and expanded on Rae Young's concept in another internal Technical Memo dated 11 December 1947. In 1951 Young was appointed Supervisor of the cellular systems engineering team and later became department head of cellular mobile phone development at Bell Labs.
In the 1950s Young was transferred to another Bell Labs facility at Murray Hill, New Jersey where he worked on communications systems and formulated requirements for design of telephone switching systems and data-transmission systems. In 1962 he was transferred to another Bell Labs facility at Holmdel, New Jersey.
In 1964 W. Rae Young was made an IEEE Fellow "for contributions to mobile radio and data communications systems".
After working for Bell Labs for 47 years, he retired in June 1979.
In February, 1937 Rae Young Jr. married Mary Lou Traywick (1915-1975) during their senior year at the University of Michigan. They had three children: Roy, Susan, and Barbara, each of whom earned a doctorate degree.
Rae Young Jr. played piano, clarinet, cello, and bass with the Summit Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra for over 40 years.
Rae's wife Mary Lou died from cancer just before her 60th birthday.
In 1980 Rae met a widow Betty Wood, a retired crystallographer from Bell Labs. For the next 27 years Rae and Betty were constant companions until her death in March 2006. Rae was 92 when he died.
Young was granted more than 14 patents.
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