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Litton Industries - Company History

Litton Industries dates back to the earliest days of Silicon Valley. Without Littons expertise in vacuum tubes and electronics, Silicon Valley would never have developed in the same way; and without the companys history of acquiring and then developing various technologies, our technology would not exist in todays form.

Charles Litton Sr., a radio enthusiast and engineering student at Stanford University, started Litton Industries in 1934. Stanfords engineering dean at the time, Frederick Terman, was modeling his programs after those of MIT, and wanted to create a West Coast version of that venerable institution. So he encouraged his students to be innovative, and to start their own businesses.

Charles Litton started his with a device he used to mass-produce radio tubes, but he did not stop there. His company was soon working with Raytheon to develop better ways for radar to detect submarines and airplanes, helping England defend itself against the bombing raids of the Germans and soon helping all the Allies find and destroy submarines before they managed to attack Allied forces.

At this time, Litton encountered Charles Bates Tex Thornton, a civilian planner in the Pentagon who worked closely with the electronics contractors of the time. Tex later moved into the private industries, working as an industrial planner for Ford Motors and for Howard Hughes Hughes Aircraft Company and Hughes Tool Company.

However, Tex wanted to do his own thing. He started his own company, named Electro Dynamics Corporation, in 1953, then within a year bought out Litton Industries and adopted its name as his blanked company name. Tex Thornton had a genius for expanding companies, as well as all the right connections in the government and military at exactly the right time: the start of the Cold War. He quickly expanded the electron-tube manufactory of Litton Industries into a diversified and multinational company, beefing up his research arm and following up thousands of innovative ideas.

Early developments were the Litton microwave oven, used primarily in an industrial context, and the Royal and Triumph electronic typewriter. However, most of the developments of Litton Industries were geared toward the military. Litton Industries acquired Ingalls Shipbuilding Company in 1962, and International Laser Systems, Inc., in 1983.

Litton Industries invented and developed hundreds of different products for the military, including navigational electronics, computing equipment, electronic warfare equipment, and communications systems. Eventually, they held major shipyards and major contracts to build naval vessels. While building these ships, they installed their navigational systems, guidance and control for the ship and for its weaponry, electronic warfare and command centers in the bridge, and many other things.

By 1990, Litton Industries was a primary builder of large surface multi-mission combat ships for the US Navy. They were also providing much of the Navys overhaul, repair, modernization, ship design, and engineering as well, all for surface ships.

By the early 1990s, Litton Industries was too large to manage as one unit. It split into separate military and commercial companies. The military arm continued to be called Litton Industries. The commercial business, which included oilfield services, business and automated assembly line operations, was renamed Western Atlas Inc.

In April 2001, Northrop Grumman Corporation acquired Litton Industries for about 3.6 billion dollars.

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C. Wayne Austin1   (6/29/2007)
I visited a couple of the Old Litton Industries Executive retirees in 1993. I think they are both now deceased.(2007) They were Frank Kerr McDaniel an engineer or Purchasing and his brother Glen McDaniel who served in high levels and I believe even as a CEO for a short stint. They were keenly aware of their family histories and the presence of thier great Tennessee & Texas heritage. They were both full of lifes best traits given to the advancement of goodness & humanity. Frank & his mother have a couple of Family History books to their credit including Kerr Family History Project and A history of the Texas Town where they were born. I believe that was Corsicana.Wayne AustinMadison, Alabama.

TR W2   (10/23/2007)
I have an old Profexray x-ray machine in working condition. I am looking to get some info about it so that I can sell it. Litton Industries bought Profexray in 1964 and I find references to a Profexray division of Litton Industries on the web but I cant find any solid contact info. Any suggestions?

ANTHONY 3   (12/17/2007)
I worked for Flora Thornton (widow of Tex Thornton) in 1999, and she introduced me to Glen McDaniel. I worked for him until 2003, putting putting together his autobigraphy (published in 2000) and helping him manage his numerous affairs. He was by far the greatest man I have ever met, a true gentleman. I attened his 90th birthday party in 2002, and heard more heartfelt tributes than any other 10 people I know would deserve. Glen passed away in 2007, and he is sorely missed.

Dr. Matania  Ginosar4   (12/25/2007)
I worked for Litton Industies, Data Systems Division, from 1959 to 1973 in the San Fernando Vally, CA. starting as electrical engineer, advancing to Manager of Techno-economic Dept. We developed Advanced Comand and Control Systems for DOD. It was a very good place to work were initiative and dedication were appreciated.

Nikolet Nikolet5   (3/18/2008)
Nice site!

Randal Garofalo6   (9/22/2008)
Whom do I contact with your Co. that can give me a quote on our up comming project. randalgarofalo at

Stephen Litton7   (12/6/2008)
fascinating company history!

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