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350 Years of NJ History

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The world has been reshaped again and again by people from and things created in New Jersey. From Edison’s light bulb, to the Atlantic City boardwalk, to the first intercollegiate football game, to Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, New Jersey’s innovations and innovators have had an impact around the nation and around the world.

To find a site from our collection of Sites noted for Innovation: 

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Joseph Henry House,1838

Camp Evans

Bell Labs


Innovation: Joseph Henry House, 1838


New Jersey - 350 years of Innovation
Innovation yellow graphic
Joseph Henry House photograph Joseph Henry House, 1838

Mercer County, Princeton Borough
Princeton University Campus
National Historical Landmark

Physicist Joseph Henry (1797-1878), an American pioneer in electromagnetism research and invention, taught at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1832 until his appointment as first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846. Henry designed and built this Greek Revival residence on campus near Stanhope Hall in 1837-38, and lived there until accepting the top post at the Smithsonian. The house has been carefully moved three times to make way for building projects on the Princeton campus, in 1870, 1925, and in 1946 to its current location facing Front Campus near Nassau Hall. A National Historic Landmark since 1965, the building now houses the University’s Andlinger Center for the Humanities.

Joseph Henry House current photograph Joseph Henry house 1872 photograph

Joseph Henry House. 
Courtesy Craig Weldon Duff

Joseph Henry House, 1872. 
Courtesy Princeton University Library

Joseph Henry Portrait photograph

For more information on this site and subject, search the following terms: “Joseph Henry” “Joseph Henry House Princeton” “Joseph Henry Electromagnetism”

Joseph Henry,
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution


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Camp Evans


New Jersey - 350 years of Innovation
Innovation yellow graphic
Camp Evans Radar Antenna Photograph Camp Evans

Camp Evans
Wall Township, Monmouth County
National Historic Landmark

Working for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, scientists and technicians at Camp Evans researched and developed advanced electronic systems and tools for military and civilian use during much of the 20th century. From 1912 until the 1920s, the site was the home of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America’s receiving station for wireless transatlantic communications. Marconi’s new radio wave technology was used by the U.S. Navy for important communications during World War I. In 1941, the U.S. Army purchased the facility, and the Signal Corps opened a secret research and development facility there, greatly enlarging the property with many additional buildings. During and after the war, Camp Evans scientists made important discoveries in the field of radar, developments that revolutionized modern warfare.

In Project Diana after the war, Camp Evans bounced radio waves off the surface of the moon and read their echo, demonstrating the possibility to communicate beyond the earth’s atmosphere. This achievement showed, in principle, that it would be possible to communicate with spacecraft and with artificial satellites that could observe our planet from space. These capabilities have led to many military applications, but they have also given us weather satellites, for example, by which we can track hurricanes—including Sandy—and have global communications that support the Internet.

Through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the Department of Defense decided to close Camp Evans in 1993. Largely because of the dedication of long-time advocate Fred Carl, other volunteers, and the local community, Camp Evans is now the home of the Information Age Learning Center (InfoAge), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of Camp Evans and fostering educational activities related to science and innovation. Over 30 buildings and structures remain on the 27-acre property, including the Project Diana antenna and the only known collection of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Deployment Units.

Camp Evans was designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) on October 16, 2012, to recognize the important role it played in World War II. The Landmark nomination states, “Equipment developed, tested, battle hardened, documented, and upgraded at Camp Evans saw use in all World War II theaters of war and protected American military assets worldwide.”

Camp Evans Radar Antenna Photograph Camp Evans "H" Complex Buildings Photograph

Camp Evans Project Diana antenna built for
the first experiments in radar astronomy,
1945-46. The antenna transmitted and
received the first radio waves bounced off
the moon.

Camp Evans "H" Complex buildings 9036
and 9037, with Dymaxion Deployment Unit
in foreground, left.

For more information on this site and subject, search the following terms: “Camp Evans”, “InfoAge”, “Project Diana radio” and “radar history.”

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Bell Labs

New Jersey - 350 years of Innovation
Innovation yellow graphic
Bell Labs Horn Antenna Bell Labs

Union County, Murray Hill
Holmdel Township, Monmouth County
National Historic Landmark

Of the many corporate research campuses that sprouted up in 20th-century New Jersey, one stood head and shoulders above the rest, both in the public imagination and in the estimation of the people who worked there: Bell Labs. At Murray Hill in December 1947, three Bell Labs scientists announced their invention of the first transistor—perhaps the most famous invention made there. The transistor was essential to the miniaturization of all electronic devices, and it earned the Nobel Prize in physics for its originators. Bell Labs scientists and technicians brought us many things, from solar panels to the Unix operating system that powers so many of our computers.

Begun in New York City in 1925, the labs moved in 1941 to Murray Hill in New Providence, Union County. Murray Hill remained Bell Labs' primary headquarters, but a satellite campus was built in Holmdel, Monmouth County, where an office building designed by internationally-famous architect Eero Saarinen opened in 1961.

At its height, Bell Labs employed about 15,000 people in an astonishingly wide variety of specialized fields. Bell Labs not only had staff who could conceive innovations, they could also discover the science to explain them, make the working models to demonstrate them, and transform prototypes into actual products. Because of the aura that surrounded Bell Labs, it often seemed that the Bell Telephone System itself somehow belonged to New Jersey in the mid-20th century.

The story of Bell Labs is explained more fully in Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (2012); Jeremy Bernstein, Three Degrees Above Zero: Bell Labs in the Information Age (1984); and John Brooks, Telephone: The Wondrous Invention that Changed a World and Spawned a Corporate Giant (1976). Search the following terms online: Bell Labs, transistor, Unix, systems theory, and Horn Antenna.

Bell Labs Horn Antenna Bell Labs at Murray Hill

Horn Antenna, Bell Labs, Holmdel Township.

Bell Labs, Murray Hill.  Courtesy of The Porticus Centre, Beatrice Technologies, Inc., Subsidiary of Beatrice Companies, Inc.

For more information on this site and subject, search the following terms: “Bell Labs”, “Bell System History”, “Horn Antenna”


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Last Updated: April 4, 2019