Jerry Wright

Inventor of the R-Theta computer

Born: 31 August 1917 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia

Jerry Wright studied to become a pharmaceutical clerk and worked in a drugstore before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1940. Wright was a sergeant by the time he was shipped to Greenock, Scotland, where he was placed as a navigator of one of the flying boats that flew across the ocean on missions lasting up to 32 hours. Later, he was moved to Madras, Spain, and promoted to flight lieutenant.

In 1944, Wright worked with eight other experts on a review of navigational systems. This led to his invention and design of the R-Theta computer, a device which fit in fighter plane cockpits and continuously displayed the plane's distance and location from home base. As a result, pilots no longer had to rely on ground radio. The R-Theta remained an air navigation standard until the 1970s when it was replaced by gyroscopic technology and later by satellite systems.

Wright holds 30 patents in navigation tools and he was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.

Additional trivia:

The R-Theta received its name from R for range and Theta for angle.

Since Wright was in the RCAF when he developed the R-Theta, the Canadian government received all royalties.

Sources include:

Conacher, Duff. More Canada Firsts. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1999.


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Added 14 April 2002.