Kenneth L. Carr was honored with an award by Maine State House Rep. Alison Hepler, last month. Kelli Haines photo.

Woolwich inventor and microwave engineer Kenneth L. Carr will receive the 2022 Microwave Pioneer Award from the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, at the age of 90.

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done in life and to receive this award. I’m very proud of the opportunity of the people I’ve worked with, between engineering and medical staff,” said Carr.

With more than 10,500 members and 190 chapters worldwide, the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society promotes the advancement of microwave theory and its applications.

The Microwave Pioneer Award is given to one recipient each year with “evidence of outstanding pioneering technical contributions that advance microwave theory and techniques, including novelty, timeliness, impact, significance, duration and extent of usage,” according to the society’s website.

Edward Niehenke of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society told The Times Record: “Kenneth Carr’s professional career included meritorious achievements and outstanding technical contributions in the field of microwave theory and techniques.”

He continues: “Ken Carr’s passion was devoted to microwave devices in medicine to help humanity.  He was selected to be the IEEE MTT-S Distinguished Microwave Lecturer and delivered his speech on ‘The Use of Microwaves for Medical Applications’ to the US, Europe, and Asia from 1985-86.”


With almost 70 years in the engineering field, Carr has over 45 published U.S. patents and has won over a dozen awards.

“I started out in commercial works, microwave, military, space shuttles and weapon systems, but when I got older I decided to use my skills and knowledge in medical applications,” said Carr. “That was really rewarding.”

In the early 1950s, Carr originally planned on attending trade school to become an electrician. Carr said it was his Sunday school teacher, a professor at MIT, who convinced him to pursue engineering instead.

“He put me in a different direction. He convinced me to take the college exams and I did very well and got accepted,” said Carr.

Carr graduated in 1953 from Tufts University with a B.S. in electrical engineering and continued his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University, and the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

In 1992 Carr 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.


He went on to develop electrical devices for radar systems used by the military to spot enemy submarines, land fighter planes on aircraft carriers, and guide missals. Carr also invented a device to help NASA monitor the re-entry of space capsules during Project Mercury and created 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.

Those captured images were supposedly what spurred President John F. Kenney’s nationwide address on Oct. 22, 1962, announcing the naval blockade of Cuba, according to an April 14 press release.

After working with NASA, Carr started his own company in Acton, Massachusetts called Microwave Medical Systems LLC, in 1985. The company later adopted the name Meridian Medical Systems.

What initially sparked Carr’s interest in the medical world was a fellow engineer whose wife had developed breast cancer, he said. Carr began looking up statistics and realized doctors were discovering the cancerous tumors too late. He wanted to find a way to discover the tumors while they were still small.

“We made microwave censors, using NASA technology to detect breast cancer earlier,” he said.

Carr also developed a microwave blood warmer for the Army to treat injured soldiers on the battlefield. The army wasn’t allowed to use anything that wasn’t FDA approved, so in 1993 Carr convinced the FDA that microwaves were safe for warming blood and tissue, he said.


Kenneth L. Carr in his basement workspace, beside the blood warmer he designed for the Army. Kelli Haines photo

Carr’s latest inventions include a brain temperature monitoring system to help prevent cerebral palsy in newborns, and 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 addition to his long career as an engineer, Carr has worked as a STEM ambassador for the state of Maine prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. STEM Ambassadors are people from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, including engineers, designers, architects, scientists and technicians.

He gave lectures to students in grades 5 through 6 promoting the importance of education and curiosity. However, Carr was unable to visit students during the pandemic.

“No one wants to invite the 90-year-old man to a school during a pandemic,” Carr chuckled.

In addition to working as a STEM ambassador, Carr also served as a trustee on Maine’s Dearborn Foundation Board, awarding scholarships to high school students and helping them pursue careers in engineering.


“I just want to see kids get interested in learning and advance themselves,” said Carr.

He is currently working with award-winning Maine author and columnist, Meadow Rue Merrill on a memoir about his life titled, “The End of the Road: My Unlikely Path as a Microwave Pioneer,” which is currently being submitted to publishers.

Merrill said she met Carr in 2012, a year after losing her 7-year-old daughter, Ruth, to complications from cerebral palsy.

“He mentioned that he’d invented a medical device to measure newborn brain temperature to help reduce rates of cerebral palsy,” Merrill said. “Intrigued, I interviewed him and wrote an essay about his work for Down East Magazine. Ken was one of the most fascinating people I’d ever met.”

She said she remembered thinking in that moment, “Someone should write a story about this man.”

“Ken is truly an American success story, of a kid who grew up in Cambridge in the shadow of World War II, and worked his way through school to eventually help lead one of the world’s biggest microwave technology companies, before launching a whole new career to apply his knowledge to medicine,” Merrill said. “Winning the Microwave Pioneer Award establishes Ken’s place in history. But what really made me want to help write his story is that he’s a great storyteller. It’s an honor to work with him.”

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

Carr says he has no plans of retiring.

“I don’t like to think that I’m done. I’d like to continue for a number of years,” he said.

Kenneth L. Carr in his Woolwich home, reviewing edits to his new memoir manuscript. Kelli Haines photo.

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