An Inventor Makes His Greatest Discovery
THE Protestant revival service was reaching its climax. The visiting preacher, with frenzied eloquence, was describing the terrifying horrors of a burning hell wherein the wicked would be roasted forever. His dramatic description held most of the audience transfixed. Then his piercing eyes caught sight of two young boys laughing—my cousin and me! His eloquence turned to rage as he rained down imprecations on us. It was not that we were irreverent. We just doubted that God could be as fiendish as this preacher was saying.
And I was disturbed that our church was not persecuted. “Why aren’t we persecuted?” I often asked my mother. “Jesus said, ‘If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ But we’re not persecuted at all!”—John 15:20.
I was born in Stoutsville, Ohio, in 1911. My childhood might have seemed lonely to some. I had no brothers or sisters near my age. I was not allowed to play with the neighborhood children. “They use bad language,” my mother said. She was quite right, they did. But I was never lonely. I had chores to do. I loved to invent things. I made my own toys. I set up a small paper mill and made my own paper and envelopes. I made my own radio set, with which I could pick up broadcasts from Cuba.
I did odd jobs to make money to pay for my projects. I had a laundry route, fired the church furnace in the winter, rang the big church bell on Sundays—a man-sized job for a pint-sized boy. I had to jump up and catch the rope and ride it down to start the bell ringing, then ride the rope up to stop its ringing.
I also loved to read. There were only a few books in our bookcase, but the Bible was always out on the table. I had a burning desire to understand it. I read and reread particularly the Gospels and Revelation. Oh, how I yearned to know what God was saying to us in Revelation! My interest in the Bible got a boost when the Sunday-school teacher offered a free Bible to anyone who would memorize the 30 Bible texts she had selected. I did that and became the proud owner of my own Bible.
One scripture on her list has stuck with me down through the years—Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (King James Version) My recollection of that text goes back to when I was nine years old, when I had double lobar pneumonia. A few years earlier my little sister had died of it. Having no antibiotics in those days, it seemed that I would follow her. I heard the doctor whisper to my mother about my impending death. “However,” he added, “if he lasts two more hours, he might live.” I lasted the two hours, plus a few hundred thousand more.
A few years after this, our church minister came to visit us. He explained how he had obtained a copy of the 1911 version of the American Standard Version Bible. Then he said something that made my ears tingle: “God’s name, Jehovah, is used throughout the Old Testament.” God has a name? His name is Jehovah? I was so excited to learn this but disappointed to hear my mother say: “I prefer ‘God.’” I was so interested in the Bible that I wanted to be a minister, but I couldn’t agree with our church teachings. So I entered college to study the sciences.
My college career nearly ended before it got started. I bought a motorcycle for cheap transportation, and while traveling to college with my roommate, I suddenly came upon a stalled truck. I swerved to miss it and went over a 40-foot (12 m) cliff. To this day I can close my eyes and see the rocky canyon rushing up at me.
Out of the crowd that had gathered, a tall stranger dressed in black walked up to me and in somber tones uttered a pronouncement that left an indelible impression: “Your God saved you today. Find out who he is and serve him.” Abruptly he turned and walked away, leaving me wondering.
After graduation, I got an administrative post in education. I once had to select a new teacher from among a hundred applicants. Among the applications, I saw a picture that made me think I was looking at my lifelong companion. I recommended that she be hired. Her name was Roberta. Within a year I married her. She did become my lifelong companion. And, in addition, she was instrumental in the fulfilling of my childhood yearning to understand the Bible.
I was working for my doctoral degree in the sciences at Ohio State University, but I had not forgotten my love for God and the Bible. I still occasionally read the Bible but with little understanding. This changed in 1944. A lady called on Roberta and left a religious book entitled Children. The lady started a study in it with my wife.
“Stop that study!” I ordered my wife when I discovered that it was with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “They’re not good people. They won’t fight for their country.”
But Roberta did not stop the study. So I decided to investigate. To my amazement, I learned that hell is not hot, the soul is not immortal, and the Trinity is not true. (Psalm 16:10; Ezekiel 18:4; Jonah 2:2; John 14:28) God is one God and his name is Jehovah, the name that had made my ears tingle so long ago. The more I investigated, the more the scales fell from my eyes. I had found the God the stranger in black had told me to find and serve. This was a God I could dedicate my life to. Not a fiend who tortured people in fire and brimstone for eternity. Not a falsifier who promised that the meek would inherit the earth, then burn it up instead.—Ecclesiastes 1:4; 9:5, 10; Romans 6:23.
Roberta and I agreed that we had found the pearl of high value. (Matthew 13:45, 46) In 1945 we were both baptized to symbolize our dedication to do God’s will as Jehovah’s Witnesses. I abandoned my studies for the doctorate and my plans to be a college professor. I got employment at a big research institution and began a career of inventing. Both my childhood loves had resurfaced—to invent things and to understand the Bible.
As the years passed, many interesting projects came along. One involved helicopters. If the pitch of their blades is too great, turbulence develops, you stall and drop like a rock. Something was needed to prevent this from happening. I invented a tiny pressure gauge only 20 thousandths of an inch thick. Gauges made over this design were mounted on the surfaces of the rotor blades. As the blades rotated, the gauges indicated the varying pressures on the blades. This important information helped the designers to correct the problem and prevent stalls. This invention got worldwide attention.
These tiny pressure gauges were used medically. People are sometimes given drugs for the heart when the real problem is spasms in the esophagus. Both conditions produce pain in the chest and down the left arm. A tube equipped with three of these tiny pressure sensors, when inserted down the esophagus, tells if the pain is from a spasming esophagus. From the esophagus it can also check the heartbeat, and by measuring pressure in the lungs when the person is exhaling, it can detect emphysema and even tell how far advanced it is. This esophageal motility probe, as it was called, was used in hospitals and shown all over the world.
These pressure gauges are also used to measure pressure in the brain when there is swelling. When pressed against the cornea of the eye, they measure the varying pressure as the heart beats, which changes reflect the pressure in the carotid arteries and may detect a partial blockage.
Another project involved the instrumentation of delivery forceps. When instrumented, the forceps tell the physician how much pressure he is applying on the fetal head.
One time a doctor mentioned that he would like to see what happens in the bronchial tubes when smoke is inhaled. This was done by means of fiber optics. The design was worked out by a coworker, Samuel Chambers (also one of Jehovah’s Witnesses). The instrument was made and inserted down the bronchial tubes. We could see the fine hairs, the cilia, waving and cleaning the bronchia of particulate matter. But when smoke was inhaled and hit the cilia, they quit waving! The smoke paralyzed nature’s mechanism for cleaning the bronchial tubes.
I also, along with Chambers, developed a special type of pacemaker. Inserted into the heart, it would measure the pressure inside the heart at the same time that it was pacing the heart. With it you could also inject medication into the heart or take out blood samples. It was used in hospitals.
At one time, I was doing a series of articles on new ways to measure mechanical strains on structures. The articles, done for McGraw-Hill publishers, attracted quite a bit of attention and ended up as a book, which for a while was used as a college textbook.
About the time I was doing this, I talked to a doctor in the Ohio State University hospital about blood transfusions. He was demeaning the Witnesses as nobodies and accused the Blood booklet, published by the Watch Tower Society, of misquoting a doctor.
“Don’t talk to me about misquotes, doctor!” I exclaimed. “I know what misquotes are. I’m publishing material every month. That doctor was not misquoted, and you know it!” I was a little heated up and continued: “You doctors may have killed George Washington by taking blood out of him, and now you’re killing people by stuffing contaminated blood into them!” Well, after that we had the nicest talk.
Another similar case. An elderly woman, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was in a car accident and was taken to the Ohio State University hospital. The doctor there was trying to convince her to take a blood transfusion. I was called in to reason with him, but he dismissed my arguments with disparaging remarks about Witnesses who knew nothing about medical matters trying to tell doctors what to do.
“Do you know anything about the esophageal probe?” I asked. I told him I invented that device and at one time discussed its use with some of the hospital staff at one of their staff meetings. His attitude changed considerably and the tension subsided.
I had a part in solving a difficult problem in the space program. NASA needed something to measure the pressure in the rocket nozzles. The temperature in them can approach that of the surface of the sun. Other pressure sensors had apparently not functioned well.
My superior and I went to Huntsville, Alabama, where rocket research was carried on. There we met a German who was in charge of this project. He entered the room and abruptly said, “Well, how do you do it?” No preliminaries.
I was told to explain our idea. This was to make a small pressure sensor involving the use of a fluid that will not burn and would keep the sensor cool.
“That will work,” the German said. The conference was over—the shortest one I ever attended! The device was made, it worked, and I shared in a NASA award. During my 25 years in research, I got more than 30 patents.
My greatest discovery of all, however, was not made as an inventor. It was made when I rediscovered the identity of the true God, Jehovah, along with an appreciation of all that the name meant. (Psalm 83:18) I told my coworkers about him. I conducted home Bible studies with some of them and their families. At one such study, 17 attended, at another, 19.
Almost everyone where I worked knew I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On my lunch hour I would always try to pick out someone different to sit by so that I could witness to him. One day I asked a man, “Do you mind if I sit here?” He said, “Yes, I do!” I had to smile. He had heard about me and apparently he didn’t want to be witnessed to.
One time the governor of Ohio visited the place where I worked, and I was assigned to talk to him. It worked out to my advantage. I was having a study in the Ohio State maximum security prison, and on one occasion the Protestant chaplain wasn’t going to let me baptize a prisoner with whom I studied the Bible. I said to him: “You know, I was talking to the governor just last week. I think you need help.” The change was instantaneous: “Well, now wait a minute!” he said. “We’ll take care of it!” He did, and I entered to see my Bible student.
When we started going to the Kingdom Hall in Columbus, there were two congregations. Twenty-five years later, there were 24. By that time I was serving as the city overseer. One outstanding experience was the construction of an Assembly Hall in that area. I was studying with Norman Watson, and one day I told him that we needed property for an Assembly Hall.
“Let’s go look at some land,” he immediately said. He showed me several places and asked: “Which one do you want?” He gave us a fine piece of land in London, Ohio. He was later baptized.
It took us 14 months to build the Assembly Hall. Each week the building committee got together to count the money. Did we have enough to go on for another week? Each week this happened, and each week Jehovah had provided enough to continue construction. Brothers Knorr and Suiter came out from Brooklyn headquarters to serve on the dedication program.
Roberta and I have had many happy years helping others come to know Jehovah. One of the first ones we shared the truth with—it brought a special joy to me—was my cousin Vaughn Crites. It was he who, along with me so many years ago, raised the ire of the revival preacher when we laughed at his hellfire slanders against our loving God, Jehovah. Also my mother, in her old age, came to love God’s name Jehovah. She died after expressing her desire to be a Witness at 90 years of age. And today Roberta and I are enjoying the privilege of serving Jehovah with the congregation in Sebring, Florida.
Finally, my childhood distress at not being in a religion that’s persecuted is past. Witnesses are persecuted earth wide. And along with the persecution, they are experiencing the truth of the text I learned as a young boy: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.”—As told by Nelson Crites.
[Blurb on page 24]
“Your God saved you today. Find out who he is and serve him”
[Blurb on page 25]
“Stop that study!” I ordered my wife when I discovered that it was with Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Blurb on page 26]
The smoke paralyzed nature’s mechanism for cleaning the bronchial tubes!
[Blurb on page 26]
The device was made, it worked, and I shared in a NASA award
[Picture on page 23]
Nelson Crites with pressure gauge
[Picture on page 27]
Nelson and wife Roberta studying