Spencer's father died when he was 18 months old and his mother left home, leaving him to be brought up by his uncle and aunt, a poor farming family in Maine. His uncle died when he was seven.
He went to work at the age of 12 in a spool mill. In 1910 the mill was electrified and he got a job as one of the installers, learning his trade by trial and error. He joined the Navy and learned telegraphy and after discharge went to work for the Wireless Specialty Apparatus Company in Boston. He had already begun his lifetime habit of ceaseless curiosity and learning.
He moved to the Raytheon Manufacturing Company, where he worked his way up to vice-president. While he held at least 120 patents, he is best remembered as the man who noticed a side-effect of magnetrons (an element of radar apparatus, developed during World War II) and turned it into the microwave oven.
Spencer never went beyond primary school, but he was awarded an honorary D.S. from the University of Massachusetts and the Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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