Edison Survey Meter - R&D Prototype (1963-1964)

This unusual looking instrument, produced (1963-1964) by the Thomas A. Edison Research Laboratory of Orange New Jersey, was the prototype for a proposed civil defense meter.

It has three controls: an on/off switch, a calibrate button and a calibration adjust. The calibration is actually a high voltage adjustment—the “Press to Calibrate” button is pushed and the “Calibrate” control is adjusted until the needle lines up with the red calibrate marking in the center of the meter scale.

Edison Survey Meter
Edison Survey Meter

It would provide protection against more than just radiation—this hefty device could be quite useful when the neighbors attempt to force their way into your fallout shelter.

The instrument employs what is referred to as the Edison radiation detection tube, a dome-shaped glass-walled tube approximately 1.25” high and 1” in diameter that is located in the lower front (i.e., nose) of the instrument. The tube’s two electrodes are symmetrical and placed parallel to each other in the center of the tube. A modified GM detector, the tube was originally developed to respond to ultraviolet radiation between 190 and 290 nanometers but it was soon recognized that it would also respond to X-rays and gamma rays. 

Edison Survey Meter

The advantages of the tube include its ability to operate at low voltages, its ruggedness, and its extremely low dead time (< 1 us). The instrument was intended to be low cost and simple to use. To that end, it employed a single non-linear scale from 0 to 100 R/h—no range switch was necessary.

Range: 0-100 R/h, single non-linear scale 

Size: 5” x 5” x 12”

Weight: 4.5 pounds

Batteries: Two 1.5 volt “D” cells 

To the best of my knowledge, no CD V designation had been proposed for this instrument. As such, the identification plate states OCD Item No. CD V-    , Model No. 1, Serial No. 1.

Donated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency courtesy of Carl Siebentritt.

Edison Survey Meter


Figular, L.G., Final Report, Development of a Low Cost Gamma Radiation Survey Meter, Office of Civil Defense, DOD, OCD-PS-64_13, March 1964.