Building the Lunar Laser for Apollo 11: I was one of the founders of Orlando Research Corporation which was a laser manufacturer right here in Orlando. And so, we made our mark in history for a little while… I actually built that laser by hand. And when we built those lasers, they were not just an overnight building observation or task. Because we had to purify the gas in several stages and all the materials that went into the inside of the laser, plasma tube. So, you know, I’d be sitting up all night on a high vacuum with these instruments being sterilized and made, customized to have only the ingredients that we wanted to have them in. Cesium gas with some electrons stripped off of the atoms so that they were ions and made it a beautiful blue green laser. And we made lasers for the Disney light parades and things like that as well…Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Physicist and Principal Scientist Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh on May 26, 2023.
Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh is a 2023 Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee and the CEO of Technology Applications International. He has a BA degree in Mathematics, and a BA Degree in Physics from Union College, an M.S. and Ph.D. in Quantum Physics from the University of Connecticut and completed post-doctoral work at Harvard University. He is a Life Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of the Laser Institute of America, Optica, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. His outstanding work spanning decades in the field of physics includes working as an Aero Physicist, Atomic Physicist, Health Physicist, and Nuclear Physicist.
He is the creator of the Apollo 11 Lunar Laser which was built in Orlando, Florida and is a founder of Orlando Research Corporation, a laser manufacturer. The Apollo 11 Lunar Laser according to Dr. Flinchbaugh achieved two historical firsts: “(1) The first precision observation of a tiny, but very bright beam of light pinpointing its location coming from the Earth directly to the first men on the moon and (2) Illuminating and precisely locating the first lunar landing exploration base from the Earth.” His pioneering work in lasers and genius in understanding the value of laser applications led to some of the first lasers for use in eye surgery.
Dr. Flinchbaugh, an aero physicist, prepared the flight plan for the first successful commercial rocket launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He is a life member of the U.S. Air Force Association and a life charter member of the Missile, Range and Space Pioneers at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. He has worked with Aero Bee, Loki, and Delta Rockets.
He is internationally known as the inventor of the ROSA, Remotely Operated Service Arm for Nuclear Reactors, the first successful nuclear service robot which is used by Westinghouse Electric, Mitsubishi, Siemens, and Toshiba worldwide for nuclear power plant operations and recovery. He built an early model of an electron microscope to study nanoparticles, and measured the magnetic properties, the magnetic force, and the magnetic field saturation force.
Dr. Flinchbaugh’s work at Lockheed Martin in the “Star Wars” Program, Strategic Defense Initiative, for our nation’s defense is part of a history of his contribution as an internationally certified manufacturing engineer, principal scientist and program manager in high-tech proposals for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, as well as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), ERDA Argonne National Labs, National Bureau of Standards, National Institute of Standards & Technology, National Science Foundation, National Security Agency, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He specialized in ultrasonic wave transmission to the light beam and made the term Acostic-Optic.
Dr. Flinchbaugh has 11 U.S. Patents and 262 disclosed inventions. He is the founder of the Inventor’s Council of Central Florida. Dr. Flinchbaugh has received numerous awards for his medical invention, the UroCycler, including The Governor’s New Product Award presented by the Governor of Florida, The Governor A.W. Gilchrist Humanitarian Award, The Da Vinci Award for Assistive Technology, The IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award, The Industry Engineer of the Year Award, The International Peace Prize presented by the United Cultural Convention of the United States of America, The Laufman-Greatbach Prize, and The Albert M. Sargent International Progress Award.
Dr. Flinchbaugh has taught at the Case Institute of Technology, Eastern Michigan University, Florida Technological Institute, Fusion Energy Foundation, Laser Institute of America, Platt’s Academy, Rollins College, Schiller Institute, Seminole Community College, Showalter Fixed Based Operator, Society of Photographic & Instrumentation Engineers, Technical Education Research Foundation, Union College & University, University of Connecticut, Valencia Community College and more.
We welcome you to listen to this oral history interview with Orlando resident Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh.
Highlights from the Oral History Interview with Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh.
Okay, yes, my name is David Edward Flinchbaugh and I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on October 11, 1934.
Did you grow up in Poughkeepsie?
Yes, I grew up in Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County, New York. My Dad there worked with the Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation which provided all the electrical, utility conveniences from Con Edison in New York City upwards to the Mohawk River Valley. And it was the birthplace of IBM corporation. And so, we got to know a lot of people there and it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Hudson River Valley
When I went to high school there were only about a thousand people in the school, right. The population of Poughkeepsie was about 50,000 tops at that time. So it was a very nice community to grow up in. And the people there also were right along the Hudson River Valley, the beautiful river valley… We had Whitman Publishing Company which published most of the comic books for the whole state of Florida and maybe more.
Mrs. Flinchbaugh did you also grow up in that area?
No. But I went to college there.…
And Mrs. Flinchbaugh, I understand you have a science background, you have a degree.
I have a degree in Microbiology, a Masters from Cornell.
A Masters from Cornell in Microbiology.
Yes. But while she was in Poughkeepsie, she got a degree in Botany from the Vassar College which at that point was an all women’s school. Vassar College, very well know at the time. And it was only a mile and a half bike ride from my house...
Dr. Flinchbaugh, you mentioned your Dad worked. Was he an electrical engineer?
Yes, he was. He was from Rochester, New York where he married my mother.
And your Mother, was she a stay at home mom or did she have an outside of the house career?
She was in millinery. And they met in Rochester when my Dad got his degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in Electrical Engineering.
Did you know your grandparents?
Yes, on my dad’s side, not too well. They grew up and we visited them in Oil City, Pennsylvania which is way on the western side of Pennsylvania and not too far from Rochester which is very much the western side of New York State… Oil was first discovered in the United States in Oil City. So there‘s an awful lot of history of course in that area. New York is a beautiful state because it has not only the Hudson River Valley, but it has the Adirondacks Mountains, the Shawagunk Mountains, the Catskill Mountains, and all the lakes in the center of the state, the Finger Lakes. Lake George is very well known. Beautiful.
So you said you knew your grandparents.
And on my mother’s side, I knew them quite well because they were in Rochester. And my aunt and my uncle, and my cousins, boy and girl, they all worked for Eastman Kodak Company that made cameras and film. The photography industry, really that’s a major center for that whole industry at that point.
And would you see each other on holidays, would you go there on vacation?
What was a typical Sunday like for you growing up?
Typical Sunday, well, let me say that every day of the week when I was home in Poughkeepsie, I practiced the piano for an hour at least. And also played touch football in the streets with the neighborhood youngsters. But the piano led to a number of things. My parents gave me and my older brother, I have an older brother four and a half years older and he’s still living. He’s in Connecticut. I competed in amateur hours in radio and TV because we also had a tie in with our neighbors with the radio and broadcast industry. Whenever I won some money, the first thing I bought was a typewriter so I could type documents out far more easily than scroll them out by hand….
Pianist for Sunday Service at the Quaker Meeting House
We really enjoyed musical activities as much as possible. The church around the corner kind of thing that I could walk to and my mother would accompany me walking through the snow to get there. It wasn’t very far. It was only a couple blocks away. That’s the American Society of Friends Church, very austere. The most expensive thing in the whole church sanctuary was the piano. They didn’t have organs in most sanctuaries.
So they must have deeply appreciated your musical gifts. I understand you wrote some hymns…
First, I played to accompany the young people in the Sunday School classes and then I played for the complete audience of adults and so on. It was a very nice opportunity to be with people and to enjoy music. Music is definitely a part of my life, always has been. I don’t get to do as much of it in recent years as I would like to. But, yes, I composed music for the church…
Yeah, my dad was very, not only interested in, but he was also a somewhat professional in music because he played in marching bands. Where he grew up in Pennsylvania, marching bands were a big thing…. He played in the marching band for all the four inaugurations that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had the honor to participate in. We lived not far from the Hyde Park where his permanent museum is, FDR… Dad always had a job because he was in charge of getting electricity to virtually everyone who lived in the Hudson River Valley. Dutchess County, Orange County, Sullivan County, Ulster County which was quite a chunk of Central New York State….
Dr. Flinchbaugh, were you educated in public schools? Did you go to public school in New York?
All public schools. And I was also in an unusual situation there because I was born eleven days too late to be in the normal class from June to June basically. So I was in a January class. So I started in January and there were about a hundred students with me in the January class, and about 300 in the normal September to June graduating class. So it was kind of different. I took all of the New York State Regents. Now New York State Regents Department, they were pretty tough. They established standards for much of the country. And we were close enough to New York City to compete with the very best students in all of greater New York City which was several million people. So that made life interesting. So I had both a Poughkeepsie High School and a New York State Regents diploma.
Dr. Flinchbaugh, when did you first discover Physics was that when you were in school or was that through your Dad?
Physics, and science in general, I decided was the right place for me to be. Well, my Dad being an engineer, he appreciated science. And, I just, my brother, he was in the Army for a few years, we got to know each better. And he was at the Fort Monmouth Base more than any other. And so, he studied electronics, and fire control central systems and munitions, weapons systems and so on. And so, it was clear to me – and music – music is really, you know, a language in its own way. It’s a universal language. And music is based on physics. Making sounds from mechanical instruments. So, they just naturally all fit together.
My Neighbors were Mathematics and Physics Professors
And, I had wonderful neighbors – in fact, some of the professors that I studied with in high school were mathematics and physics. And I did something else beyond that when I went to high school, we had seven periods during the day. I don’t know what you had when you went here. But most of them were classes, like five classes you took each semester. I took all seven and one of the classes I took was mechanics and machine shop. I got interested in airplanes at a very early age in 1943 in fact. And I started making them. My Dad would go out and cut up a pine tree because balsa wood, a very light wood, was what we built model airplanes with, was being used as high priority for life rafts for the World War II efforts. And so, we had a table saw where we could split trees into some thin pieces, sheets to make airplanes with and boats and cars and that kind of thing. My brother, of course, influenced me. He got very interested in that. So we both built airplanes especially. So that taught us a whole new set of skills and quite interestingly, today it’s a major, major industry to have your own aircraft.
My Brother Got Me Interested in Electronics
My brother got interested in electronics. And so, he got me started on that. And, electronics had a very important role in making radio controlled aircraft… that was the start of the drone industry which you know nowadays is doing marvelous things. And saving lives of many people. Everything from being able to survey and photograph very detailed areas where it’s not safe for people to be. But delivering also medical supplies to people in outlying areas where there’s no transportation available.
Dad helped me get jobs at IBM
And that led me to, when I worked for IBM – my Dad helped me get jobs at IBM. During the summers there was a wonderful opportunity to see what industry was like. So I grew into it and made enough money to pay tuition for college and things of that sort. And to advance the technology in these areas. Even though you know the advance in technology is so hard to follow these days, in those days it was exciting. It has been exciting. It’s still exciting to advance technology, because it affects all aspects of our lives. Everything. And so, to have these, I like to try to make – I’m a builder I work with my hands. Played the piano. I typewrite fast. And, create documents and can build things. And that’s been a big part of my life.
Dr. Flinchbaugh, what was one of the first successful physics projects that you did, that you felt proud of was it in school, was it your first patent, a journal article, an experiment?
Well, in school there were lots of challenges and lots of opportunities. For instance, in high school I built a what is called a cloud chamber to show the tracks of nuclear radioactive particles in the air. I also built a wind tunnel. It was a miniature wind tunnel in which I placed different types of airplane designs to test what would be good to scale up to build for a full size plane.
Learning to Fly a Real Airplane
And I learned to fly by the way… Around 1947, I wasn’t old enough to be a licensed pilot, but I could fly a real airplane. And it was a big, major step forward for me. So that I could actually make it useful in commerce and my own work in transportation.
High School Machine Shop
I also built an engine to power a model airplane out of scrap metals that were found in various machine shops around the city. And I started doing that in high school and actually built one in the school machine shop where they were teaching people how to make hammers, and funnels. You know, the ladies had their cooking classes, and we had our machine shop projects.
Building a Model Airplane Diesel Engine
And so, we made tools and I took it quite a bit step further to make an actual operating model diesel engine. And when I finished it, I started it up in the shop. This is for a little plane, you flip the propeller over and start it. And it made quite a racket. The machine shop was under the vice principal’s office. Well, I knew the vice principal very well because he was my neighbor across the street and I often rode to school with his sons. He had four sons… But yeah, that was something quite spectacular. Nobody expected it, that you would build an engine and make it run and fly an airplane.
Were you surprised when it took flight?
Well, I planned it that way.
Academy of Model Aeronautics
I still remember the Academy of Model Aeronautics. And we had contests which, they have them all over the country and in other countries as well… I set my model airplane on the table, it wasn’t a very big one. It was only about this big of a wingspan, started the engine up. I let it take off from the runway, which was right, about this far from the table where the judges were. It took off, may a big loop, circle, and landed right on the table where the judges had been and quickly scattered to get out of its way.
You’re talking about building things and you mentioned that you got scrap metal to build… I understand there was a time, I guess this was in college, when you got access to some scraps from the Manhattan Project. Would you tell us about that?
The college professors at Union College had the foresight to buy surplus material, a whole trainload full from the Manhattan Project which allowed me and some of my favorite other students in the Physics Department – We started with about 30 people in the Physics Department who wanted to be physics majors. We graduated three out of those who went through the whole course and succeeded. It was interesting. I mean, it was fun. When you are interested in things and you are having fun doing them it becomes a part of your life definitely….
Teaching Nuclear Reactor Handling
I actually built laboratory equipment, for instance, that Jimmy Carter when he attended – well, he became a nuclear submarine commander before he was President. And that was, somebody had to start teaching people how to handle nuclear reactors, nuclear submarines, all the things that are – particularly that were not standard for boat builders in those years. And I happened to, since I was working in nuclear physics a lot, I happened to have the opportunity to build equipment for the laboratory experiments that they needed to do to study nuclear physics and how to handle these things...
Building an Electron Microscope
The sixth one that RCA had ever made and it had been used by a company in Germany and then they wanted to update their equipment of course… GE was very much a contributor, a sponsor, a big daddy to UC Physics Department. I took advantage of that because we were able to build – I didn’t build a nuclear reactor with those parts, but I did build one from a microscope.
“I did the first study of Nanoparticles.”
I did the first study of nanoparticles. You know you hear a lot about nanoparticles these days. But GE had also found a way of making magnets, magnetic materials which were the smallest magnets in nature that you could make. They had one north pole and one south pole. And so, I found a way of suspending these particles in a fluid which I could harden and capture them and make them into a specimen, mount them in a specimen holder. And these were so small, of course, that you couldn’t see them with a light microscope. But you could see them with an electron microscope. So, yeah, I built this early model of an electron microscope and was able to measure the magnetic properties, the magnetic force, the magnetic field saturation force of these smallest particles of nature.
Working with Space Experiments
I went one step further than that because I was also working with people who were in, started experiments in space. And, you know, we sent rockets up as high as we could send them before we actually got to build a manned space orbiting stations. And we could pick up right at the edge of the atmosphere, magnetic particles, magnets, very small magnets, rare earth magnets, and rockets and captured small magnet particles that were flying around in space. Then I could measure those with a microscope as well.
How did you capture them? What was used to capture them?
We built rockets. And, in fact, more recently than that, 1988, we launched a commercial rocket for the very first time from Canaveral Air Force Space Station. It was called the LOFT. And it had experiments from several colleges and also NASA personnel.
And, microgravity, where you send the rocket up as high as it would fly, just out of the atmosphere of the earth, at 100,000 or several hundred thousand feet. And then it would come back to earth and we’d capture it. And then we’d measure the effects of whatever experiment we had put those particles through in microgravity…
Dr. Flinchbaugh’s Design of the ROSA Remotely Operated Service Arm for Nuclear Reactors
It had to be perfectly clean. Could not adversely affect anything inside a nuclear reactor core. Couldn’t even use a compressor. That was a nice job that I had, a very good challenge from Westinghouse Corporation. Because Westinghouse was the leader in building safe nuclear reactors here in the United States and really in the world. It’s beyond me why they went bankrupt and lost that position because they had very conscientious nuclear engineers. And just an engineering stance with safety in mind. Safety and saving lives has always been a very major factor in what I do; how I spend my time.…
Robots Working in Nuclear Reactors Robots can play a very important role, just like the drones. They can take us to places that we in our human bodies can’t go. Robots can do the same without injury. They can be made to work inside a nuclear reactor. And that’s what I did. And that’s where the ROSA… It was a good challenge… And I’m not much of a theoretical person although I did write a very beautiful theoretical paper…
LASERS: Light Application by Simulated Emission of Rotation
When lasers first became, caught the public eye – LASERS: Light Application by Simulated Emission of Radiation – I was right in there. I knew and had visited Dr. Townes laboratories in Columbia University, because I didn’t live too far from Townes, a couple hours drive. And he was a very scholarly person. And he and Dr. Arthur Schawlow, who was a total different personality, very congenial, worked together. They put in to print the first blueprints, first draft for the concept of a laser. And they hadn’t even gotten any headway in getting a patent issued on a laser.
I wrote a laser patent for a gas ion system and I submitted it to the Director of United Technologies Research Laboratories. Heidi worked for them also for several years. It was in Hartford mostly, but it was not a small operation. United Technologies Research Laboratories had its own airport and could land about any plane except the Concorde there. And, they owned and operated Pratt and Whitney Corporation which built many of the jet engines that fly us around in the standard airliners today. They owned United Airlines which made the airplanes and engines….
Dr. Flinchbaugh, this is the Cesium Ion Laser in 1960?
Yes. So before any other patent had been issued, I did my contribution, but failed to get it approved, paid for. Heidi was working at United Aircraft and I was during the summers. And I was doing work as a graduate instructor at the University of Connecticut. And we were building a house and starting a family. We had two boys and two girls by the way. So, yeah, we were very busy but very poor.
And you were a Graduate Instructor in Physics?
The First Operating Laser
The first laser was actually operated in … 1960, a few weeks before I submitted my laser application. And that was built by Hughes. You remember Hughes Aircraft, there was a lot of money out on the west coast… and Hughes Malibu California Research Laboratories that gentleman, Ted Maiman his name was, I knew him as well, California Research Laboratories [Hughes Research Laboratories in California] got the first issue approved. They got the first issue, the first actual performance of a laser operating, creating data and showing the possibility of a coherent light beam coming from something which had never been observed in nature. Laser was something new. And that was a milestone in history, of course. And so it was nice to be in there in the very early beginning. Well, it paved my way for some jobs that I did, but not a whole lot.
“I was one of the Founders of Orlando Research Corporation a Laser Manufacturer…”
I was one of the founders of Orlando Research Corporation which was a laser manufacturer right here in Orlando. And so, we made our mark in history for a little while.
With the Lunar Laser Experiment for Apollo, correct?
Yes, I have a little writeup, about three or four pages on using a laser beam to communicate with the Apollo 11 space explorers on the surface of the moon.
Building the Lunar Laser for Apollo 11
So, I actually built that laser by hand. And when we built those lasers, they were not just an overnight building observation or task. Because we had to purify the gas in several stages and all the materials that went into the inside of the laser, plasma tube. So, you know, I’d be sitting up all night on a high vacuum with these instruments being sterilized and made, customized to have only the ingredients that we wanted to have them in. Cesium gas with some electrons stripped off of the atoms so that they were ions and that made it a beautiful blue green laser. And we made lasers for the Disney light parades and things like that as well.
So the Laser that you just described, the Laser that was used for Apollo 11, was that built here in Orlando?
Yes, absolutely with these hands.
That is an extraordinary achievement.
Dr. Flinchbaugh, was it the Orlando Research Corporation is that what brought you to Orlando?
Yes. And, you know why? Because I needed to – I needed a particular type of laser to satisfy the requirements of making a very sophisticated laser system for the National Radio Astronomy Laboratories. This is, you know we have, have you ever heard of Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico? It’s unfortunately had to try to withstand a lot of heavy storm damage in recent years, it’s the main observatory scope there. It looks for radio waves. And it’s like a big pearl bottom collector like you have, you know, on some houses with TV signals. This is a mile in diameter. A mile in diameter.
Understanding the Value of Laser Applications
I worked for different companies that had different requirements. And see, one of the things I had to do, I knew right off the bat, that the laser was not just a scientific curiosity. It was a very useful tool. And most people, they looked at it, well that’s very interesting. I push a button and I get a red dot on the wall. But it’s so much more than that. And, it’s value is in its applications like so many things that we see, use every day and so on.
“I made some of the first Lasers that were used for Eye Surgery…”
I made some of the first lasers that were used for eye surgery. People who lost their vision because the retina was detached. We could weld it back on if we did it very carefully. And we could actually destroy floaters in your eye if that affected your field of vision and limited your ability to see properly. They’re so useful.
And, of course, this was probably not brought out in anything you read, but I was so nearsighted while growing up that I always had to sit in the front row at the school, in grade school, in high school. And my glasses were as thick as Coke bottle bottoms, but you don’t see Coke bottles around any more. But they were thick, very thick, like quarter of an inch thick…. I learned to memorize music very quickly, but I needed the notes enlarged on a piece of paper so I could read it better.
“I set about making different kinds of Lasers right away…”
But the fact that a laser could have so many applications, that people just weren’t open-minded enough to realize. That’s one thing as a character trait that I think is very remarkable. I am very glad to have been blessed with that. I see something, I see a use for it right away. And Lasers fell in that category. So I knew I had to – you know, people said, “This is a solution without a problem. What’s it good for?” So I set about making different kinds of lasers right away. Different colors, different waveforms, things that you could do optically with a laser light that you couldn’t do any other way. And, one of the things was to put information on the laser beam. If you do that, then you can make a system that has a lot of applications.
My Early Patents…
So I developed and I have many of the early patents on – they kept me in jobs, but it didn’t make me much money. But I’ve never been good at making much money. But I could – you know, radio. You learn that you have AM – amplitude modulation on your radio dial and you could switch to FM in which you get much higher quality reception and sound and everything that goes with it; purity of instruments that you’re listening to. I could frequency modulate. I could phase modulate.
“I could change the coherent nature of the Waveform of the Light…”
I could change the coherent nature of the waveform of the light as it passes through a medium. Phase modulation or polarization. You know, you’re familiar with polarized glasses. So I could do that dynamically with just an electronic signal if I used an electrostatic transducer.
Using an Electrostatic Transducer to Modulate the Laser Beam
The transducer is an electronics device which you put a signal onto a battery or with electronic transmitting equipment, like radio, and if you use that ultrasonic wave so that it interacts with the ultrasonic waves going this way and the laser beams going this way, I can modulate that laser beam to contain the information that the ultrasonic wave is transmitting.
Adding Information to the Laser Beam to Communicate with Astronauts on the Moon
So I learned to make many different devices and make them more useful and make the laser light useful. And that’s how I would put the information on to communicate with the people on the moon, the astronauts and other applications.
Ultrasonic Wave Transmission to the Lightbeam
So I had contracts to build communications for the National Security people, NSA Agency, and to actually make large green displays. You remember, solarscopes started out being small circular screens in a small tube. Well, with a laser system that provided the light beam for radiation and to show, for display, I could make very high resolution, very large screen display systems by putting the information on an ultrasonic wave which was then transmitted to the lightbeam.
National Security Agency
And so, I could make a whole TV set without the usual types of electronics that you have. And a communication system. And so, that had great value. People use them today, you know the National Security Agency, the Combat Weapons Centers. Well, people out in the fields they don’t want to have their messages intercepted by the enemy. And I can make it virtually uninterceptable. Nobody can understand the information. That’s why I mentioned four types of amplitude: Frequency Phase with Polarization Modulate. And first of all, the enemy, if you want to put it that way, is going to have a hard time just finding the beam to begin with because it’s a little pencil size beam that I can send for miles.
“I specialized in and made the term Acousto-Optic…”
And obviously, when you demonstrate you can communicate that way all the way to the moon 240,000 miles away, you know, it opens up a whole new world of applications. Then people say, well maybe the laser is useful for something. So, that’s an area that I specialized in and made the term acousto-optic and acoustic complied frequencies that we can hear.
But ultrasonics, I could go all the way up to very high frequencies in radio waves. And if you didn’t see the beam, if it was not visible, if you couldn’t see it with your eyes, but you could probably fish around for it with instrumentation. But I can change the beam frequency and the color easily. And I can change the type of modulation easily. So it’s virtually an uninterceptable type of communication.
The work that you just articulated for us, and thank you, your description was wonderful, if I understand correctly you were the first person to be doing that work, weren’t you?
Not the very first, but I commercialized it. See, that’s another thing. I capitalized on that in several situations.
Bell Laboratories Scientists
You’ve heard of Bell Laboratories, Bell Telephone Laboratories which was probably the premier, the most highly, the most prestigious highly complicated operation in the scientific areas of communication of any in the world and it was owned by a private company not by the government. And so, there were scientists, very highly paid, living in their ivory tower, they create a new invention, they patent it, and then they go on to something else that interests them. And they advance technology in giant steps in many cases which is wonderful for the world.
Patents and Applications
The high paid ivory towered specialists that don’t want to make 50 of them for their other laboratories, which are applications laboratories to commercialize them to make telephones so we can carry in our pocket and microscopes and other telescopes and other types of high tech equipment and commercialize it and get it down to a level where a lot of people can afford it and use it. Learn how to use it. And universities who can use them as teaching tools all these other things. They want to go on to the next thing and publish their latest invention.
Working with Bell Telephone Laboratories
I was able to get into a position of trust enough to be able to go into the Bell Telephone Laboratories and work with some of the most prestigious scientists. And, take pictures, examine their data and work with them with their instrumentation.
So that I could set up my own laboratory and usually this would be a smaller company, like Anderson Laboratories is one of them where they specialized in developing communications tools. So, they let me come into the labs which were off limits to most people most of the time and be able to duplicate their work and make half a dozen or a dozen or fifty of them to go to their Allentown facilities which took their ideas and developed them into commercial telephones or like this. Or the old kind that you press the buttons on them and put it up to your ear. And so, that was a wonderful relationship because here I could work there with the highest paid, most talented, and professional physicists and bring it to a level that it could be made into commercial devices you could have in your home. That’s an important step. And again, the universities want to be the first to invent and they have more patents than, between IBM and Bell Laboratories, than anywhere else in the world. But that’s okay. No one person has all the ideas.
I read that you have a lot of patents, actually.
Yeah, actually, I don’t know what you have there.
2023 Inductee to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame
In the application you realize that I’ve been cited for induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame for four of them. The write up is pretty good, but it is nowhere complete.
11 U.S. Patents and 262 Disclosed Inventions
I have 11 U.S. patents, I have 12 just for starters, because I have actually disclosed something like 262 inventions. But they won’t all be realized especially not from me because you know there are other people working on things that can compete and all. And I don’t have the money to do it all. It takes money to do most anything. So, I just keep my eyes and ears open for something that is needed that will help people and that’s my life. I work to make it happen.
Yes, you certainly have. And it seems throughout your career you’ve used physics to improve, to benefit human life.
Yes, because physics encompasses when you stop to think about it, all of energy. And energy is a highly used term these days isn’t it, even with politicians, and matter. Energy has so many different forms. We’re a sun-powered planet. We derive all our energy from what the sun has left behind. And the biology and all the physical things. And that we’ve learned to use, most of it, you know a lot of things effectively. But there’s a lot out there we don’t know much about yet. We don’t fully understand it and that’s why I think we’re visited occasionally by UFO’s with real, intelligent beings that have been around longer….
You mentioned in our conversation earlier that you worked with Jim Buchan on the Strategic Defense Initiative, and were you living in Orlando at that time?
Yes. Well, that’s kind of a sore subject with me. I mean, it’s something that should be brought up. The Biden Family is doing horrible things to us all. I got paid enough to live on and support my family for a while developing technologies that can protect our country, our way of life even today, that we have a place to come here and sit and talk together. And Hunter Biden – we could shoot down any enemy missiles before they destroy us just by blowing us to pieces- and Hunter BIden and a lot of the facts through people like Tony Bobulinski… he’s one of the early whistleblowers in the U.S. Navy, who when he retired from the U.S. Navy, and he’s still a young man relatively speaking, and he put together Hunter Biden in contacts with the Chinese who really are our most formidable enemy at this point. I’ve worked with Chinese. In fact, I even offered them the opportunity to build the UroCycler which is, you know, the latest thing that I’ve been working on in the last thirty some years to help people live…
To help people, because these are people from all walks of life and all ages. Infections kill people.
Urinary Tract Infection Prevention
They prevent infections from happening from people who are already to the point where they have to use a urinary catheter, indwelling in their body for long periods of time. And they’re fraught with risks of infections because they disrupted the bodies normal functions. You know, you start messing with nature, you’re going to get in trouble. I found a way, and I wish I had done it sooner, but I didn’t know what the circumstances were. But my own father died of an infection that I can prevent now.
You’ve invented the UroCycler and I understand it’s been approved by the FDA?
It’s the only one that anybody living … Some medical devices are just like miracles. And this has been called a modern miracle. And it’s been written up in Time and some of the programs that popularize scientific advances. But if they don’t work properly they can kill you. And that’s why it’s been a very serious challenge for anybody to make something that does exactly what is natural and proper and safe and needed for the body to function properly without having any detrimental effects. I mean, you buy a bottle of pills today and you get a little booklet with it – Caution may… and do not use under certain circumstances. But this, what I’ve done with that particular device is to restore a natural function the way God made us to function and be safe and have a long happy life.
And you’ve won numerous awards as well haven’t you?
Oh, many awards, yeah. But again, who controls the country. And the use of money, is what you need to make anything happen good or bad. You know, you build atomic bombs, the Atoms for Peace program can move mountains and create new community sites for people to live in. So much of it is political, monetary and not scientific. I’m very good at the scientific... I try to figure out the simplest ways to solve problems. And especially problems which pertain to life, living, quality of life. And here’s something good.
Do you feel that Orlando is a welcoming place to scientists and entrepreneurs? Is the infrastructure here a place that can support new experiments?
Orlando is very good that way. Because it’s a nice place to live. And there’s a lot of your physical and recreational, and educational activities that you can have pretty good control of here and you have opportunities. But again, you have to find the right people and you select the ones that you want to work with. And you benefit from that and they benefit from you.
And to that point, Dr. Flinchbaugh you represent a phenomenal example because now we are transitioning into medical, medical devices, medical physics.
As you grow older, you find out quality of life becomes more and more important. You didn’t worry about it much in your youth. But, yeah, I’d like to live a long time because I know I can help a lot of people benefit from their lives as well.
And that’s becoming a leading industry in this area now.
Yes, it’s recognized more and more. The problem is to actually find out, to actually do something, requires money, almost anything. Well, there are people with a lot of money around here, people with millions, and billions of dollars.
I just have to admire Elon Musk for the intelligence that he has. And the variety of problems that he has decided he is interested in solving. And helping other people. And helping to advance our education. To advance our technology. And so many things are positive.
The Quakers, you know, the Religious Society, we’re definitely against violence and war, just keep it in the past, never in the future. And do everything you can to prevent that because most people will tell you straightaway – they call me and say, “We want to live.” We’ve heard about your UroCycler how can we get it… There was a time when I was earning as much as $4,000.00 a week and I could use that to help more people.
And you have through your life haven’t you, that’s well documented.
Yeah, but when you don’t have it… these things that Biden has done he has taken literally years of my work to help defend the country and make life higher quality and better and educate people more. Especially, this is a physical world we live in so physics encompasses matter and energy.
Developing Algorithms to Identify Incoming Nuclear Missiles
One of the major things I did in theoretical work was to develop algorithms which were necessary to identify incoming nuclear missiles which could destroy our whole city just like that. And I worked for several years in the Reagan Administration and here at Martin Marietta. In fact, I had created classified documents which I didn’t hardly believe it myself. But in my file cabinets at Martin Marietta, I was not authorized to show them to anybody except the President of Martin Marietta Aerospace in Denver, Colorado and members of the Pentagon. The military who were interested in the subject of how to protect us with our technology know how and missile systems to keep us safe from enemy missiles coming in and just killing us, blowing up cities, whole cities at a time.
“Giving Away Secrets That Could Help Us Stay Alive…”
Well, some of the information that this Navy, former Navy commander that had been working with Hunter Biden on and introducing them to people that could take advantage of the information and blow it right back into our faces and blow up whole cities. The Chinese Communist Bank deposited we’re told from several sources not just one commentary on the news, deposited $1.5 billion dollars in Hunter’s bank account. And giving away secrets that would help us to stay alive. That shouldn’t be allowed. It just plain shouldn’t be allowed. I worked night and day. I worked overtime. I didn’t get paid for it all. So I’m sensitive to that. That’s what I was mentioning. It’s only that kind of thing. I don’t like to see my work used in a destructive manner or given away so that other people can destroy others. You see what I mean?
It was a peace through strength project at Martin that you were working on to defend our country.
Yeah. It was called The Star Wars. It was referred to loosely. It was a Star Wars project.
The SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars.
I mean, since I’m so heavily into the details of technology. Because I understand a lot more about materials and energy. What do you build a bomb with or what do you build a peacekeeping system with, you know. And the choice of materials often depends on whether it is successful or not.
Dow Chemicals in Michigan
For this UroCycler, I had to develop… I went to Michigan to the plastics company up there, Dow Chemicals in Michigan and Heidi was with me. I spent a whole day visiting two campuses with their highest powered research scientists, chemists and medical professionals in order to find material that satisfied the needs of this device to work properly. If it doesn’t work properly, it could kill people… if it works properly, it saves lives.
Here we know from our statistics, from our Centers for Disease Control and so on, that roughly a thousand people a year die from not having this device to prevent that from happening. And, it’s been – one of the people who was with the Veterans Administration, VA, told us the first time we met him sitting across the table like this, he said, he looked us very assertively in his eye and attitude, saying that this is the most significant, advance in the field of urology since 1934, the invention and successful use of the indwelling catheter. Now that’s a pretty strong commentary. He was head of the urology devices for several years. He’s still alive, in Michigan he lives. But this is another man who was in the Veterans Administration and they definitely want this. I was just talking to people this morning. We were on a four way conference call this morning before we came in… This fellow was head of the VA, which has I think six, maybe seven geographic divisions, headquarters around the U.S. And he recommended me for one of these awards. And he himself is a quadriplegic, so he understands exactly how important this is.
Thank you so much for speaking with us today, for sharing your valuable time with us and your knowledge. We are honored to have the opportunity to talk with you about magnificent contributions you have made to science and the work of international importance you’ve accomplished here in the City Beautiful. We look forward to hearing more about your success!
Interview: Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh
Interviewee: Jane Tracy
Date: May 26, 2023
Place: Orlando Public Library
1971 IEEE Sonics and Ultrasonics Symposium Abstracts Miami Beach, Fla., December 6-8, 1971, with Dr. D.E. Flinchbaugh of Orlando serving on the Symposium Committee for the Southeast Region.
1971 IEEE Sonics and Ultrasonics Symposium Abstracts Miami Beach, Fla., December 6-8, 1971, with Dr. D.E. Flinchbaugh of Orlando serving on the Sympos...
Prepared & conducted by Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh, Ph.D. Professional Engineer Internationally Certified Manufacturing Engineer. Principal Scientist. Program Manager.