PYE Museum Homepage The Story of Pye
1896 to
The history of the Pye Group of Companies in scientific & analytical instruments, radio & line communications, broadcasting, domestic radio & TV and industrial electronics from 1896 to the present day
The virtual museum of the Pye History Trust - Celebrating Britain’s Scientific & Industrial Heritage
Introduction to Pye Group History

The Pye Group was a world-wide electronics organisation which made and marketed scientific instruments, communications equipment, radio and television transmitters and receivers, medical equipment, electronic components, electrical equipment and domestic appliances of every kind.

The span of the Company activities ranged over the full spectrum of market sectors, from military to industrial to consumer. During the mid-late 20th century there was hardly a branch of UK military, government, industry or commerce, or a field of science in which the Group's equipment was not used.

The Pye trademark was accepted in homes, laboratories, offices and workshops throughout the world as a guarantee of quality, performance and reliability.


The story of Pye was almost the story of the electron. The electron was identified in the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge towards the end of the 19th century. In 1896 William George Pye, who was workshop superintendent at the Cavendish Laboratory, left to found a one-man business making scientific instruments. W. G. Pye Ltd prospered and grew and in 1925 diversified into radio broadcast receivers and in 1935 into television reception. The radio business separated from the instrument business in 1927.

During World War 2, trading as Pye Radio Ltd, the radio and TV company played an important role in the development of RAF ground and airborne radar and in radio communications for the British Army. Post-war the company used the knowledge and experienced gained of military technology as a platform and rapidly expanded by organic growth and by acquisition of other companies. By 1960 Pye had become a large, vertically integrated group of 60 UK companies and 20 overseas operations.

The headquarters of the Pye Group remained based in Cambridge along with many of its laboratories and factories. Other units were situated in the towns and villages of the surrounding East Anglian countryside due to the dispersion of industry during WW2. Still more operating companies were situated in other parts of Britain and many overseas countries. Throughout its history the exacting standards of Cambridge scientific research ensured that Pye was a world-wide leader in the world of electronics.

Changes of Ownership

The Pye group merged with the EKCO group in 1962 and in 1967 was taken over by Philips Electronics UK, the British arm of N.V. Philips. Over the following 10-year period the various sections of the Pye Group either became the product design centres for the Philips group, were absorbed into the various Philips product divisions or were sold off. The smaller electronic component companies were grouped together as Cambridge Electronic Industries and floated off as a separate organisation. Radio and television production ceased in Cambridge in 1965, with scientific instruments (W.G. Pye & Unicam Ltd) and radio communications (Pye Telecom Ltd) remaining in Cambridge until the 2000s.

W.G. Pye and Unicam Ltd became Philips Scientific in 1988, but in 1991, as part of the N.V. Philips retrenchment from professional-industrial industries, Philips Scientific was acquired by the US company ATI (Analytical Technologies Incorporated), and the name changed to ATI Unicam. In 1995 ATI was acquired by Thermo Electron Corporation and the ATI Unicam business was split into three activities which were each subsequently sold or merged with other companies. In 2014 Thermo Fisher closed the last remaining ex-Unicam business in Cambridge and transferred the activity to Thermo in Germany.

In 1986 Pye Telecom, the radio communications division, was renamed Philips Radio Communications Systems (PRCS) and grew to be a £200M turnover international group of companies, which in 1996 was purchased by the private equity group Cinven, and renamed Simoco International. In 2002 Simoco was broken up by Cinven and the individual business activities sold off or closed. Today the remaining descendants of Pye Telecom, such as Sepura PLC and Team Simoco Group, are still leading companies in the field of radio communications, with operations in the UK, Australia, France, India and Italy.

For a more general history of the Pye Group as a whole, please use the headings below.

For details of the history, technologies and products of the Pye Group divisions and the individual operating companies please use the menu bar above.

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