I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell
about the research scientist and broadcasting leader Henry Loomis. Mister
Loomis held many interesting communications positions over his long career.
He served as director of the Voice of America for seven
years starting in nineteen fifty-eight. Mister Loomis played an important role
in creating the Special English service.
Henry Loomis was
born in nineteen nineteen in Tuxedo Park, New York. His father was Alfred Lee
Loomis, a wealthy New York City businessman. Unlike many businessmen at the
time, Alfred Loomis protected his wealth during the financial crash of nineteen
twenty-nine. He later withdrew from the world of business in order to spend
more time working as a scientist.
Loomis and his brothers Lee and Farney grew up spending time in the private
laboratory their father built. This scientific background and the people who
worked with his father would have a big influence on Henry's life. Alfred
Loomis taught traditional values to his sons and stressed the importance of
education and hard work.
Loomis invited the top scientists in the world to his Loomis Laboratory,
including Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr.
Loomis and members of his lab team made important discoveries and inventions.
They studied many subjects, including the measurement of time, or chronometry,
and electroencephalography, or the measurement of electrical activity produced
by the brain. Henry Loomis even took part in his father's experiments on
measuring brain activity.
an interview six years ago, Henry Loomis remembered an experiment he took part
in when he was about seventeen years old. Henry slept in a sound-proof room
with electrode devices attached to his head. Alfred Loomis was nearby with a
microphone device. He told his son in a soft voice that Henry's favorite
object, his boat, was on fire. Henry Loomis jumped out of bed to save the boat.
This experiment and others helped Alfred Loomis show how emotional upset could
change human brain waves.
Alfred Loomis later helped open the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology's Radiation Laboratory. His work helping to develop the
new technology of radar would be used by the United States and Britain to
defeat Germany during World War Two.
Henry Stimson was related to the Loomis family. He was
also an advisor and close friend. Among
other positions, Mister Stimson had served as secretary of state under
President Herbert Hoover. He told Henry Loomis that he and his brothers were
very lucky in life and that they should serve their country as a way to give
thanks. Henry Loomis took these words
nineteen forty, Henry Loomis dropped out of Harvard University in Cambridge,
Massachusetts to join the United States Navy. He was able to put to good use
his knowledge of radar technology that he had learned about because of his
father's work. After graduating at the top in his naval training class, Henry
Loomis became a teacher at the Navy's radar training school in Hawaii. In
December of nineteen forty-one, Japan bombed the American naval base at Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii. This event marked the United States' official entry in World
By the end of the war, Henry Loomis had received many
honors for his service, including a Bronze Star and an Air Medal. He left the
Navy in nineteen forty-six to begin graduate studies.
year, he married his first wife, Mary Paul MacLeod. Mister Loomis studied physics at the
University of California at Berkeley. He worked as an assistant to Ernest
Lawrence, the director of the university's radiation laboratory. Mister
Lawrence had won the Nobel Prize in nineteen thirty-nine for his work in
Henry Loomis later moved
to Washington, D.C. to begin another stage of his career in public service. He
held positions in the Department of Defense and other agencies. Mister Loomis
also directed the Office of Intelligence and Research at the United States
Information Agency. In nineteen fifty-eight, he became director of the Voice of
America under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
During his travels around the
world, Mister Loomis saw that English was becoming an important international
language. He believed that it was important to make English easier to understand
by listeners of VOA broadcasts whose native language was not English. So Mister
Loomis asked VOA program manager Barry Zorthian to develop a way to broadcast
to listeners with a limited knowledge of English.
The result of this effort
was Special English. The first Voice of America broadcast in Special English
took place on October nineteenth, nineteen fifty-nine. Critics at the time said
the Special English method of broadcasting at a slower rate with a limited
vocabulary would never work. American embassies demanded that the program be
cancelled. But Mister Loomis supported the program.
Soon, VOA began to receive
hundreds of letters from listeners praising the program. Special English
programs became some of the most popular on VOA. We are pleased to say that our
programs still are.
Henry Loomis made other
important improvements at VOA. He expanded VOA's broadcasting ability by
setting up transmitter devices in countries including Liberia and the
Philippines. He also decided that VOA needed a charter document to make its
goals and rules clear. Such a charter would also officially state VOA's
independence from other government programs. The charter states that VOA has to
win the attention and respect of its listeners.
VOA's goals: to produce correct, balanced and expansive broadcasts. And to show
the many sides of America's society, thoughts and organizations. President
Eisenhower approved the charter before he left office. It was later signed into
law by President Ford in nineteen seventy-six.
Henry Loomis compared the VOA charter to the United
States Constitution. He said he believed the charter represented the realities
of the world and the moral code of the country.
Loomis resigned from VOA in nineteen sixty-five over disagreements with the
government about how to report on America's involvement in the Vietnam War.
Mister Loomis believed VOA should report about the war honestly, without
censorship from the Administration of President Lyndon Johnson. He gave a
farewell speech at VOA headquarters in which he talked about his time working here.
HENRY LOOMIS: "How
has the Voice changed in these seven years? In my judgment, the most important
changes are the codification of the mission of VOA in our charter…"
Mister Loomis also talked about program changes he
HENRY LOOMIS: "English
broadcasts have been tripled and diversified. A new language, Special English,
has been created to reach those with limited knowledge of, and a desire to
learn, the language."
Henry Loomis said that he believed VOA serves the world
poorly if it is asked to change its news and programs to serve government
HENRY LOOMIS: "I
believe VOA serves the national interest well if it reflects responsibly,
affirmatively and without self-consciousness that ours is a society of free men
who practice what they preach. To do this effectively, we must do it at all
times. Freedom is not a part-time thing."
Loomis talked about government control of the press for political reasons.
HENRY LOOMIS: "To
sweep under the rug what we don't like, what does not serve our tactical
purpose, is a sign of weakness."
But he said that to recognize forces and
opinions that disagree with government policies is a sign of strength. At the
end of his speech, Mister Loomis said goodbye to VOA workers.
HENRY LOOMIS: "It
has been a privilege to have served with you, to have learned from you, to have
had fun with you."
In nineteen seventy-two, Henry Loomis became president
of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This organization was created by
Congress to provide money for public television stations. Around this time he
married his second wife, Jacqueline Chalmers. Mister Loomis later retired to
private life. He remained active in his favorite sports -- sailing and hunting.
Loomis died in two thousand eight in Jacksonville, Florida. He was eighty-nine
years old. He had a life-long career of valuable service in science and
And we honor him with a special thank you for helping
to make this and other Special English programs possible.
This program was written and produced by Dana Demange.
I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Faith Lapidus. You can learn more about famous Americans on our Web site,
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for People in America in VOA