Fred J. Friel Jr., pioneer in radio engineering

January 02, 1993

Fred J. Friel Jr., a pioneer radio scientist, died Dec. 24 of kidney failure in North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie. He was 80.

A Linthicum resident, Dr. Friel was born in Lexington, Ky. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1934 with degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering.

He later attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford University and received an honorary doctorate of science degree from the RCA Institutes. He taught electrical engineering at VPI and the University of Virginia.

He worked as a radio engineer with RCA from 1934 to 1940, when he joined the U.S. Navy. There he became chief engineer of the Underground Sound Laboratory, of the Radar Laboratory and theengineer in charge of the Underwater Explosions Research Group.

His most notable professional achievement during a lifelong career in radio and electrical engineering was negotiating the establishment of U.S. space tracking stations in Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Nigeria.

In the early days of America's space program, Dr. Friel coordinated field operations on Project Vanguard for the Naval Research Laboratory and later for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was as a representative of NASA that he negotiated for establishment of the space tracking stations.

He was a key participant in a 1979 treaty conference involving amateur radio operators, which resulted in the allocation of three new frequency bands to the amateur service.

Dr. Friel was an active amateur radio operator for more than 60years, first licensed in 1928. He specialized in long-distance international communications and was known throughout the world by his W3FU call sign.

One of Dr. Friel's favorite pastimes was eating in fine restaurants, and he was known in many of the better restaurants in the Baltimore area.

He was a member of St. Jude's Shrine on Paca and Saratoga streets, where he served as an usher and was a benefactor of the church and its charities.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 11 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Annapolis. Although no surviving relatives are known, Dr. Friel had friends throughout the world whom he met through his travels, professional activities and amateur radio activities.

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