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The Technical Alliance Profiles

John Waring with Lois M. Scheel


Published in:
  • Section 3 Newsletter, #91, March 1991
  • The Northwest Technocrat, 1st quarter 1995, No. 338

The following are short biographies of the sixteen men and one woman whose research led to the concept of Technocracy and the social design of science--the concept of the Technate of North America, which would be the world's first functional society.

The research and study by the Technical Alliance (New York, NY, 1918-21) marked the first time in history anywhere in the world that a country or a Continent was objectively examined and analyzed on a functionally multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary basis, not as nations and their people have always been compared and rated--and still are--on the basis of their political economic/financial ideology, their military forces, and their philosophical premises. Instead, the Technical Alliance measured and assessed the extent of the land's natural resources of soil, metals, fuels, hydrology and its energy resources, its transport and communications and construction capabilities, its industrial and technological productive capacity, its available scientific, engineering, biological trained personnel--all to determine whether this Continental area could provide an equitably individualized high optimum standard of living for its population, and if so, how this could be brought about.

The following are excerpts from a definitive Technical Alliance pamphlet:

...to survey the possibility of applying the achievements of science to social and industrial affairs.

...to work out a tentative design of production and distribution completely coordinated, production defined as manufacturing and furnishing of goods and services necessary to satisfy the wants of man (in) given standards of comfort.

...engineering estimates of production processes: material specifications, plant locations, related industries, and distributing methods; estimates given in qualitative and quantitative terms: of machine hours, pounds, cubic feet, ton-miles, heat units, etc.

...to put the technical knowledge of the country at the service of the people so that industry may be released from the present chaos imposed...by arbitrary rule of extraneous non-technical (financial/political) control.


FREDERICK L. ACKERMAN, Architect (1878-1950): Designed the Administration Building of Cornell University at Ithaca, New York, his alma mater. During World War I, he was Chief of the Housing & Town Planning Design Division of the U.S. Shipping Board; later a consultant for the New York City Housing Authority; Fellow of the American Institute of Architects; member of the American Institute of Planners; lecturer on architecture for Cornell University, Columbia University; member of New York State Board for Registration of Architects.

Ackerman wrote the opening chapter for the official Technocracy booklet: Introduction To Technocracy

ALLEN CARPENTER, M.D. (No further information.)

CARL L. ALSBERG, Biochemist (1877-1940): Chief, Bureau of Chemistry, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Director, Stanford Food Research Institute; Dean of Graduate Study, Stanford University.

LOUIS K. COMSTOCK, Electrical Engineer ( - 1964): A member of the War Industries Board in World War I; Chairman of the Board of Review of the War Production Board in World War II; head of L.K. Comstock Company, New York Electrical Contractors, that had responsibility for planning and coordinating the wiring and lighting for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

STUART CHASE, CPA (1888-1985): Author of many books on the importance of industry and technology in America; also books on the semantics of language.

ALICE BARROWS FERNANDEZ, Educator (1879-1944): Teacher of English at Vassar College and at the New York Ethical Culture School; fellowship student of John Dewey, originator of the work-study program for secondary schools in the United States; senior specialist in school building problems for the U.S. Office of Education from 1919 until retirement in 1942; member of executive committee of National Federation for Constitutional Liberties; author, Functional Planning for Secondary School Buildings (1937); daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter of Congregational Ministers; niece of Thomas B. Reed (Rep., ME, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1888-1899) with whose family she lived. A precept of Reed was, ``The level of liberty in any land is the liberty of its meanest [lowest] citizen.''

One of Fernandez's contributions to the Technical Alliance was the concept of a small electric power generator to be built into and in full view in the central lobby hall of every public school and college/university in North America. It wasn't meant to be merely a museum piece; symbolically it would demonstrate the dynamic operating prime mover that provides the electrical energy serving that entire educational system...the lighting, cooling and heating apparatus, communications, etc. All students would thus be aware, every day, of this functionally operational reality symbolizing our human/social interdependence with technical energy in the North American way of life whether they were first graders, high schoolers or post-grads, and whether they were studying to be physicians, musicians, biologists, artists, or engineers, et al. Their teachers likewise would benefit from this learning experience. The top half, or all of every turbogenerator unit, would be operationally in full view at all times.

BASSETT JONES, Mathematical Technologist (1877-1960): Planned the installation, operation, and timing sequence for the 73 elevators (and their 1,515 miles of wire cables) in what was to be the world's highest building--the Empire State Building-- elevators capable of moving 15,000 people vertically up its 102 story stops during a 30-minute morning period, and 15,000 people down during the afternoon 30-minute rush hour. (In 1945, a twin-engine bomber, fogged in, slammed into the building, the jolt setting a floor afire and causing the cables of one elevator to snap. It fell 75 stories...the two women passengers were brought out injured, but they were not killed.)

Jones was chairman of the Elevator Safety Research Committee of the American Standards Association; he supervised the installation of the first self-service elevators in an office building. A consultant in lighting, he designed the first floodlight units used in a theater (for Maude Adams of the Washington Square Players in ``Peter Pan'', 1912), and he planned the illumination for the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Riverside Church in New York, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. As a consultant for the Comstock Company, he made the grounds of the New York World's Fair look like ``a fairyland at night, the buildings glowing from within instead of being spotlighted'' (N.Y. Times). Also, he was co- inventor with Clarence Birdseye of what is now enjoyed in virtually every American and Canadian home: quick-frozen foods.

SULLIVAN W. JONES, Architect (1878-1955): Secretary of the Technical Alliance; became State Architect of the State of New York; designed the State Office Building in Albany. During World War II, he was Chief of Housing for the War Production Board; in 1946 he was consultant on veterans' hospitals for the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army.

ROBERT D. KOHN, Architect (1870-1953): Became president of the American Institute of Architects; designed the Montefiore and Mt. Sinai Hospitals, R.H. Macy & Co. department store, and the New York Ethical Society meeting house.

BENTON MACKAY, Forester-Naturalist (1879-1975): Originator of the Appalachian Trail, 2,025 miles from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain, GA (model for the newer Pacific Crest Trail, 2,560 miles from U.S.-Mexico border to Canadian border); was with the U.S. Forest Service. It is estimated that a million Americans hike on the Appalachian Trail every year. Author of New Explorations: A philosophy of Regional Planning (1962) and From Geography to Geotechnics (1968).

LELAND OLDS, Statistician (1890-1960): Director of research for the American Federation of Labor; assistant to the chairman, then executive secretary of the New York State Power Authority; Chairman of the U.S. Federal Power Commission; Vice Chairman of the National Power Policy Committee; member, President's Water Resources Policy Commission; Chairman, U.S. St. Lawrence Advisory Committee until the St. Lawrence Seaway and Hydroelectric project was completed, which was, as Senator John F. Kennedy pointed out, ``... a permanent memorial to him... He had the vision and the energy to establish the foundation for the giant power system that will soon be serving America.''

HOWARD SCOTT, Engineering Scientist-Technologist (1890-January 1, 1970): The multidisciplinary scientist-technologist-engineer who, in his late 20s, brought the Technical Alliance together. Members of the Alliance chose him as their Director and Chief Engineer to coordinate their research.

CHARLES PROTEUS STEINMETZ, Electrical Engineer (1865-1923): Known as the ``Wizard of General Electric'', he created and controlled lightning--artificial yet with the same flashing crash and destructiveness as Nature's lightning--so he could devise electrical equipment to more effectively withstand uncontrollable natural lightning. During his career, his inventions won him more than 200 patents, creating practical solutions to the enigmatic problems of magnetism and alternating current; his work became the springboard for much of the vast electrical industry used today. There was no way to mass- produce electric motors or generators and no practical way to transmit electric energy more than three miles...until Steinmetz discovered the laws of hysteresis in 1892 when he was 28. He read a paper on it before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers...in 1901-2 they chose him as their president. When giving him an honorary degree, President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard University, said: ``I confer this degree upon you as the foremost electrical engineer in the United States, therefore in the world.''

``Charles Proteus Steinmetz, the man who did most to tame electricity to consumer use, had such a formidable intellect that even Einstein marveled at it and sought him out. People everywhere are indebted to him every time they flip a light switch, plug in an electric shaver, turn on a television set...'' (Life Magazine, April 23, 1965.)

``Because he was born with a hunch back, Charles couldn't run and jump like other youngsters. But when he got old enough to hobble to school, he made a pleasant discovery: His mind could run and jump. He sprinted through all the math and science and engineering that could be set up for him. After hours, he dabbled in a new field that nobody expected to amount to much: electricity.

``Eventually, he came to America to look for a job...It wasn't easy at first. People would see his disappointing body and say that they'd let him know if something came up. But one day he found a man who let him talk. People who remember Charles Steinmetz say that when he talked about the subject he loved, he grew tall and beautiful before your eyes...turned loose in a good laboratory, the results he came up with helped to remake American life and industry. You need long words to describe what Steinmetz did. He was a scientist's scientist. You might say he pinned electricity down on a table, fired questions at it, cut it up, found out what made it tick, and set down the rules for making it behave. Since then, anybody who has done anything useful with electricity has worked with tools that Charles Steinmetz made for us. To many people of his day, he was, above all, the man who defeated lightning. Lightning had always done terrible damage to power lines. It paralyzed factories, plunged cities into darkness, and then ran away before it could be studied. Steinmetz made lightning in his laboratory, looked it in the eye, and tamed it.'' (From an institutional advertisement of John Hancock Insurance Co.)

Steinmetz: ``Some day we make the good things of life for everybody.''

RICHARD C. TOLMAN, Physical Chemist (1881-1948): Taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois; Director of the Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory; Professor of Physical Chemistry and Mathematical Physics and Dean of Graduate School, California Institute of Technology. During World War II, appointed to the National Defense Research Committee; when President Roosevelt named Vannevar Bush as Chairman, the other members of the Committee chose Tolman as Vice Chairman; member, National Academy of Sciences; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; author, Statistical Mechanics with Applications to Physics and Chemistry.

JOHN C. VAUGHAN, Surgeon (1875-1940): Chief of Vanderbilt Clinic; instructor in surgery at College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University; Director, Bellevue Hospital; Chairman, American Birth Control Society; Medical Director, Workers Health Bureau; Fellow, American College of Surgeons; author, Textbook on Minor Surgery.

THORSTEIN VEBLEN, Educator and Author (1857-1929): Taught Economics and Finance at Cornell University; Political Economy at University of Chicago; Economics at Leland Stanford University and New School for Social Research. Managing Editor, ``Journal of Political Economy.'' In his classes and textbooks, exposed and analyzed the ``conspicuous consumption'' of cultural waste and the technical inefficiency inculcated by economics' deliberate obsolescence of products as well as interference- control of education. Author of Theory of the Leisure Class, Theory of Business Enterprise, Instinct of Workmanship, Higher Learning in America, Vested Interests and the Common Man, and others.

CHARLES H. WHITAKER, Architect (1872-1938): Editor, ``Journal of the American Institute of Architects''; Director of the Regional Planning Association of America; author, What is a House?

JOSIAH WILLARD GIBBS (1839-1903): Professor of Mathematical Physics at Yale University.

Professor Willard Gibbs was the engineering scientist whose Phase Rule united physics with chemistry...which had previously been considered separate and incompatible entities by the world's scientists. The result? What is now known as physical chemistry--basic to chemical engineering.

The Phase Rule applies the thermodynamics of energy to calculate and predict the changes (transformations) from a liquid (phase) to a gas to a solid--or in reverse or in any combination, whether the material is metal, air or more complex gases, water or more viscous liquids (like petroleum), chemicals, mineral ore, or even organic/biologic substances. It is recognized as ``the most important single linear equation in the history of science,'' and as the ``Rosetta Stone of science.''

``...Gibbs defined new quantities related to entropy, which allowed him to predict in advance whether or not a chemical or physical change will take place; and if it does, how far it will go.

``...Gibbs' famous Phase Rule grew out of these studies. He devoted only four pages to its development...within the next 50 years (after 1878) other scientists wrote books and monographs-- a total of 11,000 pages--on Gibbs' Phase Rule, describing applications to mineralogy, petrology, physiology, metallurgy, and every other field of science...'' (Excerpted from American Science and Invention, Mitchell Wilson, New York, NY. 1955.)

Just as Isaac Newton founded the science of mechanics, Willard Gibbs created the science of physical chemistry--combining physics with chemistry--to which all other branches of chemistry become subordinate. Within 50 years after Gibbs' work, chemistry had pervaded the world's greatest industries. Steel had become a matter of chemistry, along with the baking of bread, the making of Portland cement, mining, manufacture of petroleum fuels...

When awarded the Copley Medal in 1901, the highest honor bestowed by the Royal Society of London, he was cited as ``the first to apply the Second Law of Thermodynamics to the...relation between chemical, electrical, and thermal energy and capacity for work.''

In the view of the American Chemical Society, Professor Gibbs was ``the greatest theoretical scientist this nation has ever produced.''

He was ``...the man who put chemistry on its engineering feet...who proved that nothing is as practical as a sound theory.'' (-Waldemar Kaempffert, Science Journalist, writing in the New York Times, December 13, 1942.)

``If in the field of music, Wagner could say `I believe in God and Beethoven,' then surely, in the field of thermodynamics, one should say, `I believe in God and Gibbs.''' (-Professor Robert Gilmont, adjunct professor of chemical engineering, in frontispiece of his book, Thermodynamics for Chemical Engineers, N.Y., 1959.)

The operational techniques of statistical mechanics and vector analysis (calculating magnitude with direction), both of which Gibbs developed and formulated, are involved in many applications of engineering today. His vector analysis helped make radar possible.

Lee De Forrest, whose invention (1906) of the audio tube took wireless out of the Marconi dot-dash era into the spoken word of modern radio, which then led to television... was one of Professor Gibbs' students.

Gibbs was the first American to win a Ph. D. in Engineering.

He was the second American to receive a Sc. D. Doctorate in Science.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1879, and two years later delivered his Vice Presidential address to fellow members of the American Association for the advancement of Science.

In the view of historian Henry Adams (1838 to 1918), grandson of President John Quincy Adams, he was ``the greatest of Americans, judged by his rank in science.''

``Our intellectual and scientific forefather was Willard Gibbs, the thermodynamicist,'' acknowledged Howard Scott of the Technical Alliance and Technocracy whose Theory of Energy Determinants--the operational dynamic of functional social design on a Continental scale of magnitude for North America--is largely derived from Gibbs' discoveries.