Kendall, Osmond, 1909-1996

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Kendall, Osmond, 1909-1996

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      • Kendall, Osmond
      • Kendall, Ken

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      Dates of existence

      1909 - 1996


      Osmond “Ken” Kendall was born in Malaga, Spain in 1909, and died in Ottawa in 1996. Following an education in Uruguay and Brazil, he apprenticed with Brush Electric Traction and received a diploma in electrical engineering from the Bliss School, Washington, DC. He then settled in Victoria, British Columbia, where he ran Kendall Laboratories Ltd., designing and making a variety of electrical and electronic instruments and teaching electrical engineering in night school. With his company, for example, he installed the first radio-controlled radios to be built into new homes in Canada.

      To help with the war effort, Kendall first moved to work with the Navy as a civilian on acoustic mine research at the Bedford Basin Munition Dump, in Halifax, in 1941. While there, he also worked on studies of human stress at the Neurology Department at Dalhousie University, under Dr. MacIntosh, and was part of air force testing of fighter-pilot suitability using Humm/Wadsworth emotional profile charts. He joined the staff of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) from 1941 to 1945, to work on underwater sound in Halifax and Ottawa. Sometime during this period, he was loaned to National Defense to work on a system of psychological warfare. In 1945, NRC loaned Kendall to the National Film Board (NFB), where he served as Chief of the Sound Department until 1947 and then continued on as a consultant until 1956. His work with the NFB led to improvements in sound synthesis, the recording of sound, and the recording of moving images. He also conducted studies on the development of television for Canada and the future role of the NFB.

      His most famous invention was the Composer-tron (1951), a machine that allowed composers to draw the music they wanted to create on a TV screen and have it played back by tone-generators, thereby eliminating the use of sheet music, musicians, musical instruments, room acoustics and microphones. Canadian Marconi Company built one prototype Composer-tron, but it was never put into production. Kendall believed the prototype was transferred to the Canadian Forces Base in Petawawa because National Defence and its American counterparts had decided that the technology might be applied to psychological warfare activities.

      From 1952 to 1954, Kendall pursued social science motivation studies at the University of Chicago. From 1952 to 1955, he worked as a Convention Manager, Instructor, Vice-President, and then president of Dale Carnegie Graduates International, a leadership training company. He moved to become a trainer with Foreman’s Human Relations Seminars from 1955 to 1961. Kendall was dyslexic and he began to focus his research on dyslexia and other learning disabilities after 1961, studying at the University of Edinburgh’s Child Life and Health Department under Dr. T.T.S. Ingram, and observing the work of Dr. Susannah Wolf, Director of the Edinburgh Autism Center. From 1963 to 1973, he was a free-lance consultant in biocommunications and worked on learning games. For example, he developed a tape loop system for reading practice for people with dyslexia. In 1966, he co-founded the Ottawa Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. He worked with the communications consultant company ASDA Ltd in Ottawa from 1972 to 1974. Beginning in 1973, Kendall provided consultation services to Algonquin College’s Social Science Department on biofeedback courses and worked with the Public Service Commission of Canada on an experimental program for teacher-less learning for public servants throughout Canada via a communication technology satellite system. In 1981, he started a business in Ottawa, the Association of Creating Enterprisers.

      Kendall was affiliated with the many professional associations over the course of his career, reflecting his varied professional interests. For example, he was a member of the following: the American Institute of Electrical Engineers; the American Institute of Physics; the Society of Motion-picture and Television Engineers; the Audio Engineering Institute of America (Fellow); the National Education Association (USA); the Adult Basic Education Association (Canada); the National Training Laboratory in Group Development; and, the World-blind Institute (UK).


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      Written by D. McGee, 2009. Revisions A. Torrance, 2022. French translation by Céline Mongeau, Laroque Lingjuistic Services, 2022-10.




          -CSTM Archives. NMST Oral History Collection. Osmond Kendall interview (1 audio cassette) and accompanying file K.O. Kendall – composertron, NFB etc. Interview April 24, 1981.
          -Ingenium. Supplementary Information Files for 1981.0031and 1997.0369.
          -Phillips, Alan. (June 11 1955.) Osmond Kendall’s Marvelous Music Machine. Maclean’s. Accessed online 2022-06-02:
          -Wright, Katherine. (2013). New Worlds of Sounds: Electronics and the Evolution of Music in Canada. Transformation Series. Ottawa: Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation.

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