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Kearns and Law Engineers

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957 - 1962
Scope and Contents:
This series consists of materials from Kearns and Law Engineers, a company founded by Robert Kearns and Kenneth Law (1957-1962) to provide engineering, prototype fabrication, research, design and development services in the fields of computers, automatic controls, and instrumentation.
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.1406, Series 4
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep871f7fb61-de5f-48f9-b305-5d97e1a8d271
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref44

Quotation and shop order number assignments

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 9
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957 - 1962
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8f167b3e1-1c00-487f-b9a4-15ca311b8ea9
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref315

Document sign-out sheet

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 10
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep89480e3cd-c603-448c-b228-f3588e77ee78
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref316

Background brochure

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 8
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
undated
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8c18e1bab-dcd9-4bc0-ba70-8683d1c0bf4d
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref314

Partnership dissolution and finances

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 14
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1962
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8e5136d0a-d2a0-4a51-adef-3021423a0453
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref320

A Synthesis of Instrument Functions

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 13
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1960
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep829c2bf13-016d-404f-921a-60b4217f4e0e
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref319

A Brief Introduction to Accelerometer Instruments Functions for Inertial Navigation Systems

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 11
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8e76354b2-c32d-4641-b653-f7686ac97951
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref317

A Proposal and Analytical and Experimental Studies of Compensating Networks for Accelerometers of Inertial Navigation Systems

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Container:
Box 13, Folder 12
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1958
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep8ad8434fd-249c-48f5-a507-1a6c99d94965
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref318

Volume 2 (Financial)

Collection Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Date:
1957 - 1958
1976 - 1976
Scope and Contents:
300 pages; [PO 10250-PO 10376]; topics include expenses and receipts, money paid in, and general bids for Kearns and Law Engineers from 1957-1958; the 1976 data in the notebook relates to a power supply for a road sign, flashing lights for a highway sign, and wiper motor-related work.
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.1406, Subseries 2.3
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Robert W. Kearns Papers / Series 2: Notebooks
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep83a82c450-1be5-4f4f-8330-ec31bb314556
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-1406-ref18

Robert W. Kearns Papers

Creator:
Brown, Brian Ivan  Search this
Kearns, Robert W.  Search this
Kearns, Timothy  Search this
Quan, John  Search this
Names:
Kearns and Law  Search this
Tann Company  Search this
United States. Bureau of Standards.  Search this
Extent:
8.5 Cubic feet (24 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Reports
Trade literature
Patents
Photographs
Drawings
Notebooks
Correspondence
Memorandums
Date:
1963 - 1999
Summary:
The collection documents the inventive career of physicist and engineer Robert W. Kearns. Kearns invented and patented in 1967 the windshield wiper system with intermittent operation (US 3,351,836), among other inventions. The papers include notebooks, correspondence, reports, memoranda, photographs, patents, drawings, and trade literature.
Scope and Contents:
The collection includes notebooks, correspondence, reports, memoranda, photographs, patents, drawings, and trade literature. Kearns held patents related to circuitry which are integral to electronic intermittent windshield wipers. The windshield wiper documentation consists of patents, correspondence, and a set of drawings from November 16, 1967 for Tann Company. Other documentation includes Kearns's work with the engineering firm Kearns and Law (brochures, shop orders, agreements); his National Bureau of Standards work, which consists of his personnel file and notebooks detailing his highway skid resistance research; and subject files that cover a range of topics that interested Kearns, such as radar, speed control, and electric cars. At the heart of the collection are 32 invention notebooks (1963-1986) belonging to Kearns as well as engineers he worked with including John Quan, Brian Ivan Brown, and Timothy Kearns, son of Robert Kearns. Bound, paginated, and dated, the notebooks contain sketches, schematics, calculations, data, telephone numbers, and details about materials, costs, testing data, and descriptions for many of Kearns's projects. The notebooks present a comprehensive overview of his ideas and are significant to understanding his creative process and how his ideas changed or did not change over time. The majority of the notebooks are arranged in chronological order and therefore researchers can see Kearns's work unfold. Many of the notebooks are stamped with a "PO" to indicate a "protective order" followed by a number, and many of the notebooks were used during court proceedings. The protective order restricted access to notebooks which were filed with the court, or to be filed with the court at a future date.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into ten series.

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1957-1991

Series 2: Notebooks, 1954-1994

Series 3: Patents, 1957-1985

Series 4: Kearns and Law Engineers, 1957-1962

Series 5: Kearns Engineers, 1967-1985

Series 6: National Bureau of Standards, 1967-1972

Series 7: Ford Motor Company (Engineering Technical Education Program), 1964-1966

Series 8: Windshield Wiper Materials (Kearns vs. Ford Motor Company), 1962-1993

Series 9: Subject Files, 1965-1999

Series 10: Correspondence, 1989-1999
Biographical / Historical:
Robert William Kearns was born in Gary, Indiana on March 10, 1927 to Martin W. Kearns and Mary E. Kearns. One of three children, Kearns grewup in the Detroit area, graduating from the University of Detroit, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (1952); Wayne State University, Masters of Science in Engineering Mechanics (1957); and Case Western Reserve University, Ph.D. in engineering (1964). Kearns also earned certificates in nuclear reactor control from Argonne National Laboratories (1958 and 1959). He was a Corporal in the United States Army, assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Strategic Services Unit (SSU); the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA.) from July 31, 1945 to November 29, 1946.

Prior to joining the military in 1945, Kearns worked at Mercury Engineering Company (1943-1945) in Detroit as a draftsman preparing engineering shop drawings. After the war, Kearns joined the H & A Tool and Die Company (1946-1947), also in Detroit, as a draftsman preparing engineering shop drawings for the manufacture of the individual parts for machinery and special dies. Through the University of Detroit Cooperative Program with the National Bureau of Standards, he participated in an engineer in training program (1949-1952) where he executed a variety of standardized tests on engineering materials. He held a variety of engineering positions: designer/draftsman with Peerless Design Company, Detroit (1952); junior engineer with Burroughs Corporation Research Laboratories, Philadelphia (1952-1953); and engineer with Bendix Aviation Corporation, Detroit (1953-1957) where Kearns supervised and directed of a group of engineers responsible for the design of computer components, servomechanisms, control systems and related devices. Other duties included planning, liaison with other Bendix divisions, establishing test equipment requirements, as well as technical specifications and reports. In 1957, Kearns joined the faculty of Wayne State University, Department of Engineering Mechanics, as an assistant professor (1957-1963), later becoming an associate professor (1963-1967).

Kearns also established two independent businesses, the engineering firms of Kearns and Law (1963-1976) and Computer Central (1965-1976). Founded with partner Kenneth J. Law, an electrical engineer, Kearns and Law provided industry with consultation, research, design, and development services in the fields of computers, automatic controls and instrumentation. Computer Central manufactured a series of control components such as the Linear Range Comparator, Sign or Equality Binary Comparator, Identity Comparator, Dual Brush V-Scan Encoder Electronics, Gray Code to Binary Code Encoder Electronics, and Digital Difference to Analog Converters. Kearns served as Detroit's Commissioner of Buildings and Safety Engineering (1967-1971), where he acted as an administrator, overseeing professional engineering activities such as building inspections. Kearns moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland in 1971 to become principal investigator for the highway skid resistance program at the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (1971-1976).

In 1967, Kearns invented and patented an electronic windshield wiper system with intermittent operation (US 3,351,836). Previous wiper systems were controlled by vacuum tubes. He installed his device on his 1962 Ford Galaxy and met with Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation in 1963 with the goal of manufacturing his idea and being a supplier to the auto industry. Kearns tried to commercialize the wiper through the Tann Corporation. In 1969, Kearns's intermittent windshield wiper was installed on Ford cars without his knowledge. He ultimately filed suit against Ford for patent infringement in 1978 (representing himself as Kearns Associates), seeking $141 million in damages (a figure eventually raised to $325 million). Kearns's purpose in pursuing litigation was not a cash award. Rather, he wanted the rightful ownership. In all, he filed lawsuits against 26 car manufacturers and other companies concerning the same patent (US 3,351,836). In July 1990, a federal jury ruled that Ford had unintentionally infringed on Kearns's patent and awarded him $10.2 million. In June 1992, Kearns was awarded $11 million from Chrysler. Kearns held over 30 patents, with the majority relating to windshield wipers.

Kearns died in 2005. He married Phyllis Hall (1932-2013) in 1953, divorcing in 1989. The couple had six children: Dennis Kearns (b.1954); Timothy Kearns (b.1956); Patrick Kearns (b.1958); Kathleen Corsetty (b. 1961); Maureen Kearns (b. 1964); and Bob Kearns (b. 1967).
Provenance:
Collection donated by the Estate of Robert W. Kearns, through Dennis Kearns and Maureen Kearns, 2016.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Some health-related materials in Series 6: National Bureau of Standards are restricted until 2055.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Occupation:
Inventors  Search this
Topic:
Inventions -- 20th century  Search this
Windshield wipers  Search this
Automobiles -- Design and construction  Search this
Genre/Form:
Reports -- 20th century
Trade literature -- 20th century
Patents -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Drawings -- 20th century
Notebooks -- 20th century
Correspondence -- 20th century
Memorandums -- 20th century
Citation:
Robert W. Kearns Papers, 1963-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.1406
See more items in:
Robert W. Kearns Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ep83c37ebc7-5f04-40bc-bd53-98f10a2b4809
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-1406
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