The Odyssey Of Claire Wainwright

June 13, 2007
Wainwright Instruments was built upon engineering ingenuity, "sweat equity," and mutual respect for all employees, and never with outside financing.

Wainwright Instruments GmbH may not be a "household word" in the United States when it comes to microwave filters. Still, the company has grown steadily and achieved a sterling reputation as a quality house for RF filters. Sadly, the guiding force behind that company, Claire Wainwright, passed away this April at the age of 81. He leaves behind family, friends, and fellow engineers who he has touched in many ways during his lifetime.

The odyssey of Claire Wainwright is a tale of several cities and many miles. Although Claire's Wainwright Instruments is a German firm, Claire was born on an Illinois farm and learned electronics with the US Navy.

Upon his return from the service and Japan, Claire furthered his education with help from the GI Bill, hoping to become an architect. He met his first wife, Barbara, and built a trailer home for them on his parents' farm. His interest in architecture faded once he realized the restrictions that would be imposed on his creativity, and he switched his major at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana to electrical engineering.

After graduation, he accepted a job offer from P. R. Mallory in Indianapolis, IN, and was tasked with building sweep generators. Since the output levels of these instruments was very unstable, Claire realized that a filter was needed to level the output and eliminate unwanted harmonics, and thus started his life-long fascination with RF/microwave filter design.

After leaving Mallory's, Claire and Barbara started their own company called Telonic Industries—a merging of the words "television" and "electronic"—in Beech Grove, IN. They would eventually head for Laguna, CA, where they started Telonic Engineering. After his first marriage ended, Claire met his second wife, Christel, while visiting a German sales office.

Claire would eventually move with Christel and their children back to Germany, with the plans of returning to the US after a few years. But they never did return.

Claire's love for designing filters fueled the growth of Wainwright Instruments. The company was built upon engineering ingenuity, "sweat equity," and mutual respect for all employees, and never with outside financing. Because he was a teacher as well as an engineer, his employees have learned filter design as well as an obsession for quality. During his odyssey, Claire Wainwright touched many. He leaves behind the embodiment of his philosophy and vision in the company that bears his name.

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