Updated: February 1, 2020

Who Designed/Invented Night Vision Binoculars and Goggles?

Written by: Christopher Mark
Edited by: Mark Spence
Fact-Checked by: Patricia John

The first practical night vision devices were invented by the German army during World War II, using a technology called infrared. However, the modern night vision goggles and binoculars that are widely used today were developed by the United States military during the Vietnam War. The development of these devices was led by several companies and research institutions, including ITT Corporation, the Eastman Kodak Company, and the United States Air Force's Armstrong Laboratory.

Find The Inventor Of Night Vision Goggles 

The two inventors of the first-night vision goggles are Charles B. Wilson, Jr. and Steven A. Mares. They are both from the United States of America. They developed their night vision goggles in 1958 and 1960, respectively.

Steven A. Mares was born in 1929 and he was a US Army captain during the Korean War. He is one of the two inventors of the first-night vision goggle, which is often called NVG (Night Vision Goggle). 

He also worked at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a senior research physicist after his retirement from the army in 1964. 

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Mares' work on NVGs was done in 1960 when he was working as a research physicist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The US Army had requested that Westinghouse Electric Corporation conduct an investigation into the feasibility of providing active infrared night-vision systems to ground forces. 

Their request was motivated in part by the growing threat posed by North Korea's T-34 tanks to US tanks then deployed in South Korea. 

Mares was one of several Westinghouse researchers working on aspects of this project, with the ultimate goal of developing a lightweight infrared viewer that could be used by infantrymen to detect enemy tanks at night or through the fog, smoke, or other obscurants. 

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This work led to the development of the first lightweight active infrared night vision system ever fielded, which became known as the AN/PVS-1 "Starlight" scope and was introduced into US Army service in 1961. 

The AN/PVS-1 saw widespread service during the Vietnam War, during which time it was also provided to allied countries such as South Vietnam and South Korea under the Military Assistance Program (MAP). 

During this time it became widely referred to as simply "the Starlight scope". The AN/PVS-1 weighed 13 lb (5.9 kg), less than half that of earlier infrared viewers, and had an effective viewing range of about 500 meters (550 yards) under typical nighttime conditions. 

It employed a sophisticated photocathode tube that used automatic gain control (AGC) circuitry to maintain a constant image brightness in spite of varying ambient light levels; this permitted its use without any manual adjustments by the user once it was set up for a particular lighting environment.

Kalman Tihanyi (1911–1979) was born in Hungary and he studied physics at Budapest University from 1930-1935 before obtaining his PhD from Wuerzburg University in 1938. 

He emigrated to England during World War II and worked for Farnborough at RAE there until 1946 when he joined Litton Industries in California where he worked on military contracts until 1951 when he joined Hughes Aircraft Company where he stayed until 1956 when he started his own company called Electron Kinetics Research where he invented infrared night vision goggles and many other devices such as car burglar alarms etc.

During World War II, Tihanyi worked for Farnborough at RAE on infrared detection systems using mercury cadmium telluride detectors and image converter tubes salvaged from downed German aircraft.

In 1946, he moved to California to work for Litton Industries on military contracts. 

In 1951, Tihanyi moved with his family to Redondo Beach California where he started his own company called Electron Kinetics Research that developed infrared night vision devices and many other inventions such as burglar alarms for cars etc.

In 1979, Kalman Tihanyi died of cancer at Wien Hospital in Vienna Austria at the age of 67 years old.

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