Ir. Gerrit Alma (1902 – 1997)

Gerrit Hendrik Petrus Alma was born in Utrecht January the 31st 1902. He studied at the Technical University of Delft where he received his Masters degree in 1925. After his graduation he worked for several years on telephone systems for Ericsson in Sweden.

In 1927 his work had taken him back to the Netherlands where he worked on the building of a new telephone exchange in Rotterdam. On the 28th of December 1928 he married the Danish Sigrid Margaretha Jacobsen in Copenhagen. During this period he received a letter from Philips in which he was invited to apply for a job with Philips. Without paying any attention he had thrown the letter away, but his young wife found it in the dustbin and urged him to apply for a job. Things must have worked out, since he started his new job at Philips in 1929 working on the development of radio tubes in the radio tube lab.

Within ten years he is head of the “Electrical Laboratory.” This laboratory is responsible for the design of new radio tubes which are then subsequently made by the samples department (“proefafdeling”) headed by Dr. Prakke. The electrical laboratory was also responsible for the development of the necessary test equipment and procedures. The fact that the samples department and the electrical laboratory were two separate organizations, resulted in many misunderstandings and frictions. Eventually, when Prakke is promoted to head the television picture tube development, both departments are united under Alma.

Several years later, the electrical laboratory is split into what we what now would call consumer devices: “Radio reception tubes” (radio ontvangbuizen) headed by Dr. Dammers, and the group “Professional reception tubes” which was trusted to Ir. Rodenhuis. In subsequent further reorganizations more groups are added to the radio lab of Ir. Alma. Rodenhuis remembers Alma as a very pleasant and skillful boss. Later when Rodenhuis had become the director of the Philips tube division in Hamburg “Valvo”, he realized how much Alma had shielded his groupleaders from administrative burdens.

Gerrit Alma was a very straightforward man who disliked political intrigues. He had a very loud voice, and his people always joked that he didn’t need a telephone. His son even describes his attitude towards his work as “fanatic”. After dinner he would often return to his desk to work on some kind of new tube or idea. The last few years of his career at Philips he worked on the introduction of Germanium diodes in the plant in Nijmegen. He retired in 1962 at the age of sixty after which he fulfilled and advisory role for several years.

Gerrit Alma was a passionate violin player. When his children asked him something while he was playing the violin, he would answer without stopping playing! After he retired, he designed several new violin shoulder rests. He even set-up a small venture which marketed the shoulder rests which he had fabricated in England. His wife didn’t like the whole business and she was glad when the whole unprofitable venture was stopped. Gerrit Alma died in 1997 at the age of 95.

Gerrit Alma just before disembarking in New York