Maine inventor and microwave engineer Kenneth L. Carr has been selected to receive the 2022 Microwave Pioneer Award from the IEEE’s Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (MTT-S). The IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organization and works to benefit society by advancing technology. The Microwave Pioneer Award recognizes Carr’s achievements and technical contributions in the field of microwave theory and techniques, specifically for developing and commercializing medical devices that use microwaves to detect and treat medical conditions.

Carr, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and spent his early career developing ferrite devices for radar systems used by the military to spot enemy submarines, land fighter planes on aircraft carriers, and guide missiles. His accomplishments include inventing a device to help NASA monitor the re-entry of space capsules during Project Mercury and creating an electromagnetic switch that allowed a radar system on a U.S. spy plane to take high-resolution images of Russian missile sites in Cuba. These images spurred President John F. Kennedy’s nationwide address on Oct. 22, 1962, announcing a naval blockade of Cuba and precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis.

After helping launch a Massachusetts’s microwave engineering company, Ferrotec, which he led for more than a decade, in 1970 Carr became the group vice-president and technical director for M/A-Com. Headquartered in Burlington, M/A-Com is a leading supplier of semiconductors, components, and subassemblies. For many years, Carr oversaw company operations in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, and England while developing microwave components for commercial, military, and space systems. Wanting to use his knowledge to help people, in 1985, Carr started his own company, Microwave Medical Systems, LLC, in Acton, Massachusetts (which later became Meridian Medical Systems).

After convincing the FDA in 1993 that microwaves could be safely used to heat blood and tissue, Carr developed a microwave blood warmer for the Army to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield; used microwaves for the early detection of breast cancer; invented a brain temperature monitoring system to help prevent cerebral palsy in newborns; and developed a radar system small enough to fit on the tip of a catheter. He is currently working on a medical device to destroy blood-borne viruses in the blood.

Carr has been awarded 54 U.S. patents and in 1992 received an honorary Doctor of Engineering Technology degree from the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he served as a trustee for more than 40 years. In addition, Carr has taught at numerous universities around the world as an MTT-S Distinguished Microwave Lecturer; served for more than 35 years as a member of the faculty of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia; served for 10 years as a member of the board of overseers of the College of Engineering for Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts; spent 8 years as a member of the Board of Bar Overseers for the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts; and is currently the STEM ambassador for the state of Maine, lecturing to 5th and 6th grade students, while also serving as a trustee of the board for Maine’s Dearborn Foundation, awarding scholarships to high school students and helping them pursue careers in engineering. In conjunction with award-winning author Meadow Rue Merrill, Carr is currently completing a memoir, The End of the Road: My Unlikely Path as a Microwave Pioneer, which is currently being submitted to publishers.

The 2022 MTT-S Microwave Pioneer Award is scheduled to be conferred at the annual Society Awards Banquet during its six-day International Microwave Symposium in Denver, Colorado, on June 22.

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