The History & Origins Of The Microwave

Microwave history



From reheating leftovers to popping popcorn, microwaves have become an essential appliance in many households worldwide. But have you ever wondered about the fascinating history and origins of the microwave?

Today, we’ll take a journey back in time to explore the development of this revolutionary kitchen device.

So, grab a snack (maybe even something you can heat up in the microwave later!), and let’s dive in!

The discovery of microwaves.

A microwave radar tower from 1945

In the early 1940s, a brilliant scientist named Dr. Percy Spencer was working on magnetrons, a type of vacuum tube used in radar systems during World War II.

While conducting experiments, he noticed something rather unexpected. The Hershey’s candy bar in his pocket had started to melt! Driven by curiosity, he decided to investigate his accidental discovery further.

Dr. Spencer soon discovered that the magnetron was emitting a new type of electromagnetic wave, which he named “microwaves.” These new waves had the ability to heat food quickly and efficiently.

It was a groundbreaking revelation that would change the way we cook forever.

The first microwave oven.

The original 1947 Raytheon Radarange microwave oven

Dr. Spencer and his team at Raytheon Corporation began designing a device that would safely harness microwaves to cook food.

In 1947, they released the first publicly-available microwave oven, known as the “Radarange.”

The Radarange was far from the compact and sleek appliances we see today. The enormous machine stood 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) tall and weighed a staggering 750 pounds (340 kilograms)!

As you can imagine, it was mainly used in commercial settings like restaurants and airplanes, as it was too large and expensive for the average consumer.

Microwaves go mainstream.

A Radarange microwave oven from the 70's

Microwave technology started to advance rapidly by the end of the 1960s, making microwave ovens smaller, cheaper, and easier to use.

Manufacturers recognized the potential market for microwave ovens in households and began producing more consumer-friendly models.

By the 1970s, microwaves started appearing in kitchens across the US and quickly gained popularity.

People were thrilled with the convenience of heating up leftovers or cooking a meal in a fraction of the time it usually took.

And so, microwave ovens became a staple appliance, revolutionizing the way we prepared food.

Microwave technology today.

A modern microwave oven

Over the years, microwave technology has continued to evolve and improve.

Today, there’s a wide range of microwave ovens to choose from, with various features and functionalities to suit diverse needs.

One such innovation is the introduction of microwave convection ovens, which combine the traditional heating methods of a convection oven with the ease of microwaves.

The addition of convection elements allows for even cooking and browning, making them ideal for baking and roasting.

Another notable development is the invention of built-in microwave ovens, which seamlessly integrate into kitchen cabinetry, saving valuable counter space.

These built-in models offer a sleek and modern look while providing all the functionalities of a standalone microwave.

4 mini microwave facts:

Shelves full of white microwaves for sale at a department store.

The microwave oven’s first name, the Radarange, was chosen through an employee contest. The term “microwave” came into common usage later on.

The first microwave oven cost a whopping $5,000 in 1947. Adjusted for inflation, that would be around $70,000!

The microwave was initially met with skepticism and concerns about its safety, particularly regarding radiation leaks. Fortunately, microwaves are completely safe as they’re fully contained within microwave ovens.

Did you know that microwaves can do more than just heat food? It’s also great at things like disinfecting kitchen sponges, heating up plates, and even drying herbs!


The history and origins of the microwave are filled with fascinating discoveries and advancements in technology.

From its humble beginnings as a byproduct of radar development to becoming a common kitchen appliance, the microwave has transformed the way we cook.

So, the next time you heat up a TV dinner or reheat some leftovers, remember the curious mind of Dr. Percy Spencer and his groundbreaking invention!