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Oral-History:Ernst Weber (1988)

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Int. 2:<br>As time goes by, more and more people seem to lay claim to the name, but I always give credit to whoever wants it. And I thank them all because I thought it was a good name for the major publication. <br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>As time goes by, more and more people seem to lay claim to the name, but I always give credit to whoever wants it. And I thank them all because I thought it was a good name for the major publication. <br>  
  
=== Scientific engineering and the direction of the IEEE ===
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=== Scientific engineering and the direction of the IEEE ===
  
 
Bell:<br>In looking at the various papers and everything that you set forth, I wonder if any of these influenced the initial direction that you tried to give IEEE. One is the idea of what you called "scientific engineering." The idea that you would have engineers who would know about the fundamentals of science and so be able to design new devices or new applications from scratch, rather than waiting twenty years for the sciences. Was that something you felt would derive something good out of the merger? Was that anything that you tried to emphasize in your presidency?<br>  
 
Bell:<br>In looking at the various papers and everything that you set forth, I wonder if any of these influenced the initial direction that you tried to give IEEE. One is the idea of what you called "scientific engineering." The idea that you would have engineers who would know about the fundamentals of science and so be able to design new devices or new applications from scratch, rather than waiting twenty years for the sciences. Was that something you felt would derive something good out of the merger? Was that anything that you tried to emphasize in your presidency?<br>  
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Weber:<br>The physics and engineering education reports with my co-author Segar were published in the Journal of Engineering Education and in Physics Today. <br>  
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Weber:<br>The physics and engineering education reports with my co-author Segar were published in the ''Journal of Engineering Education and in Physics Today''. <br>  
  
 
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=== Educational activities of the IEEE ===
  
 
Int. 2:<br>Was the IEEE during its first year involved in accreditation?<br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>Was the IEEE during its first year involved in accreditation?<br>  
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=== Professional functions of the IEEE ===
  
 
Int. 2:<br>What about the concerns that we now call "professional," how were they dealt with?<br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>What about the concerns that we now call "professional," how were they dealt with?<br>  
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Int. 2:<br>Separate assessment, yes. In Canada as well.<br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>Separate assessment, yes. In Canada as well.<br>  
  
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=== International professional societies ===
  
 
Bell:<br>Do other nations have their own Activities Boards?<br>  
 
Bell:<br>Do other nations have their own Activities Boards?<br>  
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=== National Academy of Engineering, American Association of Engineering Societies ===
  
 
Bell:<br>You were involved with the founding of the National Academy of Engineering around the time that IEEE was formed. What was the involvement of IEEE with the National Academy?<br>  
 
Bell:<br>You were involved with the founding of the National Academy of Engineering around the time that IEEE was formed. What was the involvement of IEEE with the National Academy?<br>  
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Bell:<br>Human nature being what it is, yes.<br>  
 
Bell:<br>Human nature being what it is, yes.<br>  
  
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=== Problems of establishing umbrella organization ===
  
 
Weber:<br>There had been so many attempts to get an umbrella society, but really the different professions had different languages, different attitudes.<br>  
 
Weber:<br>There had been so many attempts to get an umbrella society, but really the different professions had different languages, different attitudes.<br>  
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Bell:<br>One of your papers was on that.<br>  
 
Bell:<br>One of your papers was on that.<br>  
  
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=== IEEE and public perception of engineers ===
  
 
Int. 2:<br>Do you think there has been a marked change in the public's perception of engineers over the past twenty-five years? <br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>Do you think there has been a marked change in the public's perception of engineers over the past twenty-five years? <br>  
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=== Engineering education ===
  
 
Int. 2:<br>What about the level of U.S. engineers' education generally? Not talking about formal education, but about education in a broad sense. Put whatever factors you want in there: intelligence, broad concerns. Where would you put engineers versus other professions like lawyers, and doctors and so forth? In some sense, the surgeon could be considered a mechanic.<br>  
 
Int. 2:<br>What about the level of U.S. engineers' education generally? Not talking about formal education, but about education in a broad sense. Put whatever factors you want in there: intelligence, broad concerns. Where would you put engineers versus other professions like lawyers, and doctors and so forth? In some sense, the surgeon could be considered a mechanic.<br>  

Revision as of 16:49, 2 October 2008

Contents

About Ernst Weber

Ernst Weber was born in Vienna, Austria in 1901. The impact of his family influenced him greatly in learning about and later choosing a career in the sciences. After graduating from college and earning his engineering diploma in 1924, he began to work for the Siemens Corporation. Here he worked on a series of projects including conformal mapping and solving problems within the mining industry. At this time he continued with his education and received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1927. His dissertation topic was to find why deviations in electronic charges occur and resolving the discrepancy between Ehrenhafts' experiments and Millikan's theory.


Weber eventually left Germany because of the rise of Nazism and came to the U.S. Here he became an educator along with being a scientist. His interest in the educational systems and specifically the differences between an American approach from a European design led him to teach and prepare future engineers in new ways. His work in this area eventually led to his being named President of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Though his impact on education was considerable--he helped train a generation of Americans at Polytechnic--he continued to do research, notably on efforts involved with radar. During World War II he was chairman of the Basic Science Group of AlEE and later joined MIT's Rad Lab. Since this time he has worked closely with his graduate students on a series of American corporations on developing radar and related projects, including Airborne Instrument Laboratories, Corning Glass, Sperry, Harris-Intertype, Hewlett-Packard. He also established he Polytechnic Research Development Corporation, later sold to Harris-Intertype in 1959.


In 1952 he organized the Microwave symposia and became President of IRE in 1959. He resigned as President of Polytechnic in 1969. He joined the Advisory Committee for the Division of Engineering of the National Research Council and later became its chairman. He worked here until 1978. He was also involved in centralizing the engineering societies in the U.S. After Polytechnic he began to study and work with organizations concerned with such diverse topics as limiting automobile pollution and predicting earthquakes. Weber continued to work as a volunteer for IEEE through the 1970s and 1980s.


The interview begins with a discussion of the impetus toward early contact between AIEE and IRE--namely, the development during WWII of service systems which made large machine control through electronics possible. Weber goes on to recount Pat Haggerty's inquiry as to Weber's interest in being IEEE's first president. He discusses the multitude of problems and complications concerning the status of professional groups and societies during and after the merger. The interview continues with a discussion of the initial goals of IEEE, particularly in creating an integrated organization, the question of publication, and the search for a general manager. Weber comments upon his commitment to the concept of "scientific engineering," particularly in the context of his early teaching experiences in the United States. This leads to a discussion of Weber and Segar's report on physics and engineering education in the 1950s and the eventual revision of pre-college physics textbooks. The interview then turns to a discussion of professionalization within engineering. Here, Weber discusses the various roles of NSPE, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the NRC and the EJC. The interview concludes with comments on the US Activities Board, the changing public perception of engineers, and the relationship between status and education and professionalization within engineering.

About the Interview

ERNST WEBER: An Interview Conducted by Trudy E. Bell, IEEE History Center, 9 March 1988


Interview # 050 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey



Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Ernst Weber, an oral history conducted in 1988 by Trudy E. Bell, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

Interview: Ernst Weber
Interviewer: Trudy E. Bell
Date: March 9, 1988


Bell:
Interview with Ernst Weber by Trudy E. Bell, March 9, 1988 for the Anniversary Issue of IEEE Spectrum. I don't quite know where to start. Do you have any particular pet questions that you would like to ask first?


AIEE and IRE roles in high frequency research, publication

Int. 2:
Well, since this relates to the 25th Anniversary, we would really like to have your input about two time frames. The first would be, of course, the formative years in particular, let's say the year prior to the formation of the society from the predecessor organizations, and some of your recollections about the issues. I was a member of both AIEE and IRE at the time. I was in New England and didn't know what machinations were going on down here, but eventually we got to vote on whether we wanted a merger, and I voted against it. I never thought it would happen and I never revealed that before, but then it happened and it seemed to work out quite well. I think the readers would be interested in knowing some of the issues that were before the two societies and perhaps your recollections of the personalities at the time. For example, I think of Don Fink because I know him well, and Jack Ryder because of his role in the publications end. That couple of years would be one time frame, and the other would be the retrospective, when you say, "Well, let's look at this whole thing from this end. Do I look at it any differently today than I did when it was actually happening or during my tenure as president?" so we could get a little comparison. I think Trudy has done her homework on some of the benchmark events that happened around that time; maybe the two of you can get into some specifics here and see what we can do. Start out by talking about the very things that a lot of people weren't privy to, namely the issues that were before both organizations.


Weber:
I became a member of AIEE when I came to this country and was quite active in it. I forwarded a Basic Science Club in New York. At that time I was not a member of IRE; Terman was very much afraid that the AIEE was competition to IRE. He actually had correspondence I found at the archive at Stanford University. He asked the IRE people in New York, "What has happened? Why doesn't IRE do that?" I had invited him in fact to give one of the lectures not knowing that he was so anti-AIEE. That was in 1941 or 1942 published in AIEE journal about ultra high frequency and wave propagation and so on.

During the war, of course, we were engaged at Polytechnic in microwave research. I had already started in 1939 courses at Sperry on ultrahigh frequency, and when the radiation laboratory collected the data, and the faculty created a field theory in that program. We have had it ever since the 1930s. They wanted to take my old group up and I rebelled, and they left me at Poly one of the few places that they left intact. Colombia had come, but there was really nobody in the New York area that had any background in higher frequencies. We could not use microwaves, it was forbidden--censored. In fact, if you look through IRE publications sometimes you will find when I published in ADA about ultra high frequency, the censor, Cornelli would literally cut it out of all the issues with the journal at the time because we knew the Germans were working at higher frequencies. They had radar already. They already had mass production of radar. They had to in order to be prepared. We had radar too, but not thinking about using it for war, so then began the real problem. We couldn't just do the same as the Germans because we needed to know a better technique. So we had to go to much higher frequencies, microwaves from ten centimeters to three centimeters and one centimeter, which the Germans had no experience with. That really won the war because we could, with a much higher resolution, get much more pinpoint bombing than the Germans at the time. So we kept our research group and I had to commute to MIT Radiation Laboratory. We worked together. Cherrano was very important in it. He made one of the portable, small attenuators that we had to put into mass production and since everybody was very busy, we had to form our own company. PRD.


Early contact between AIEE and IRE members in development of control systems

Int. 2:
What did that stand for?


Weber:
Polytechnic Research and Development. Actually I took this little attenuator--there was no precision measurement for attenuation power measurements at the time. Everything had to start from zero, in fact. I went up to MIT and they wanted it for field use. It was a glass, parish glass tube covered with metal film and in coaxial lines and later with wave guides. We threw it on the floor, and since it didn't break MIT said, "How many can we have? Can we have ten thousand?" So, we had to build a new company, the PRD Company, because they couldn't get anybody else. We had to shop around to get people to do the machine work involved. I think it was in 1944 or 1945 that I became a member of IRE, because the only reports out were in IRE. Because of our work, I think in 1946 I was in charge of the whole technical program. Ed Harolburgh [sp?] was in charge the year before and was also one of my students. We were so small that people just didn't have enough standing room for listening to new reports on the achievements during the war. The AIEE did not have it. The problem was in communication we had used feedback long since 1934 with this invention. During the latter part of the war, the service systems were generated, which meant large machine controlled through electronic means. Today we use, of course, microprocessors, but at that time they didn't exist. This was for anti-aircraft heavy machinery. Power industry had not paid much attention to electronics, but this capability of control systems became very important. There were two parallel groups. AIEE had an interest from a power angle and the IRE from Lowman [?] feedback principles. This led to very early contact between those two groups. Many were members of both, and that was really the impetus towards the eventual merger.


Int. 2:
What was the name of those two groups?


Weber:
One was the control group, and the American Automatic Control Council developed out of that. The professional group in IRE was called Telemetry Remote Control and Computers; that joined in very early. The other was Automatic Control, and both of these became associated with international groups, which led to closer integration. This happened in the 1950s of course. In 1959 or 1960, Clarence Linder, who was president of AIEE, asked me to form a little group examining what should the two societies do. I had on my committee some members of a control group, and some members of an electronic committee of AIEE and unanimously we said that there should really be merger. Otherwise it would really be competition, because people didn't know where to publish. I made the report party to Linder and informed the IRE group. At that time Lloyd Burkner was president. He was followed by the president of Texas Instruments...


Int. 2:
Haggerty.

Creation of IEEE, nomination as IEEE President

Weber:
Pat Haggerty. I told him about it and he said, "Go ahead." He had already had discussions. Our report was unanimously for merger. One day, I was with Polytechnic and I got a call from Pat Haggerty wanting to know if I would object to being nominated for president of IEEE. I was wondering why. In 1962 I was still involved with the IRE board and so on. I had also just been made president of Polytechnic in late 1957. So I asked my chairman of the board, President of Sperry, Basset said, "If they've asked you, by all means." And I accepted. Apparently it was just because I could remember the AIEE and had been very active in that and then was active with IRE immediately in their technical program. I also had many friends in both areas. I don't know whether that should be recorded. I had attended many of the AIEE banquets with my wife. Usually it was the Bell Laboratory group. Buckley was president; we sat usually at that table. My very first paper I had published in 1931 was by AIEE, in electro machinery. The machines usually had a laminated rotor and coils on the poles so that you had a combination of solid iron and laminated iron. If you switched the time constant became important. My paper was on that mixture of iron circuits and response in switching phenomenon. Westinghouse published it and was later very much interested in it. So I knew the machine group. At the merger it was my task to convince them to become a professional group. Since I had been chairman of the professional groups committee just a few years before, I could explain it to them. They didn't accept it immediately, but they at least listened and felt that they would think it over. Two years later they became a professional group and the important thing was that they kept their autonomy. They were very, very jealous of it. They got to do the things that they had done before without interference because they had eighty years of history.


Int. 2:
So that became the Power Engineering Group?


Weber:
Right. There were many complications because there were some committees. Should they become professional groups? Should some professional groups merge in that? Certainly we had long discussions. I worked with Harold Blackmon of Westinghouse in a committee to discuss this. We sat down for many hours and checked back and forth, but there was no question; those people in the power groups were all for merger. Last year I talked to a GE man whose name will later come to me. I thought he was involved in some of the negotiations and he said, "I didn't agree to merger." And then I met an electro, an old RCA member, and he said, "I never approved that merger." So in both quarters there were still people who resented it because it lost their intimate group. But by far the majority was very happy about it. It relieved many of the problems and the technical system committee of AIEE never had the freedom the professional groups had. Each professional group was almost a society in itself and had its own publication. I originated the group in the early days in advance propagation. I had to warn them to watch their budgets because they had more papers than they ever could publish.


Int. 2:
Right.


Weber:
It was an extremely interesting time.


Bell:
The McMahon book talks about the fact that around that time, apparently, AIEE membership was dropping and IRE's membership was rising.


Weber:
Electronics became universal and permeated everything. It started with the electronic control of power systems. It couldn't do it any other way. In fact, I remember a paper that practically said, "Now we have invented the feedback system." That means from the power system we have a sensor-activated control system.


Presidency of IEEE

Bell:
When you became president of IEEE, what did you want the new society to be able to do that the old ones couldn't?


Weber:
Well, actually we were most concerned with creating an integrated system. Obviously, as in any organization, people who were chairmen of a committee didn't easily give it up; so what to do? How do we slowly change it so that the man becomes the vice-chairman of a professional group, etc? That was a principle component, the very first time. Then of course there was publication. There was Electrical Engineering, which research showed shouldn't continue. It was too problem-oriented and the Proceedings on the other hand didn't lend themselves to a more general publication because they were strictly oriented towards scientific aspects and fundamental issues publication. So we had to invent a new publication. This was what I was thinking and eventually they respected me. Again, as in all such instances, it had to be a real membership publication, which they hadn't had before. AIEE had it as Electrical Engineering, and then after Transactions for this special publication I came to the Proceedings. So Spectrum was a key invention and fortunately then Don Christiansen was found.


Int. 2:
Was there a search committee for the general manager at that time? How did that come about?


Weber:
Don Fink had been president of IRE because everybody knew him. They knew his Electronics, wasn't it?


Int. 2:
Yes.


Weber:
His publication. So he knew about publication first hand, and it was therefore logical to ask him. As far as I remember it was he who found Christiansen.


Int. 2:
That's true.


Weber:
It is so important to have on board and in available distance, men of all different capacities in order to really build up an organization that can work together.


Int. 2:
Who were the equivalent general managers of IRE and AIEE at that time?


Weber:
Well, George Bailey. He didn't take too well to the merger because he couldn't continue, but he was given an office downstairs, if you remember that, to appease him. There had been a little question in IRE about the administration. He ruled with an iron hand essentially.


Bell:
Bailey did?


Weber:
Yes. I admired in one way how he did things, but on the other hand I wasn't fully in agreement and nobody really dared openly do something, particularly because the merger was in view. Pat Haggerty was looking for somebody then to take over and it happened that Don Fink was then with...


Int. 2:
Philco.


Weber:
Philco. He had become a little uneasy. Pat Haggery took it upon himself to persuade him and had to make it attractive. He was the first executive secretary and I think he was immediately a member of the board. Having been president of IRE, he had real administrative experience of the system.


Int. 2:
Bailey was on the IRE side. Who was on the AIEE side?


Weber:
Nelson Hibshman. I had many talks with him.


Int. 2:
Did he continue in some role?


Weber:
No. I think he was quite happy to retire.


Creation of Spectrum

Bell:
I am intrigued by the creation of Spectrum when you said that Electrical Engineering was too power-oriented and the Proceedings were too scientific--high level. How did the idea for Spectrum come up?


Weber:
We wanted to substitute Electrical Engineering because everybody had the transactions for the high level publications.


Int. 2:
Was it a committee design or was it more persons.


Bell:
.....who had just a brilliant idea in the middle of the night?


Weber:
I think Don Fink was a main mover, in retrospect.


Bell:
How did the name come up?


Weber:
I am not quite certain. One of the publications was written across a broad spectrum.


Int. 2:
Supposedly, Woody Gannett and Lee Prone [sp?] had thought of the name for the student magazine. When the board heard about it they said, "That is such a good name that we want it for the major magazine, you go find yourself another name."


Bell:
So that's where they got Potentials from?


Int. 2:
No. They called it Student Quarterly, I think, at that time.


Weber:
Yes. Ted Hunter, who was very much interested in student activities, wanted a publication for them. He had proposed Spectrum for them.


Int. 2:
As time goes by, more and more people seem to lay claim to the name, but I always give credit to whoever wants it. And I thank them all because I thought it was a good name for the major publication.

Scientific engineering and the direction of the IEEE

Bell:
In looking at the various papers and everything that you set forth, I wonder if any of these influenced the initial direction that you tried to give IEEE. One is the idea of what you called "scientific engineering." The idea that you would have engineers who would know about the fundamentals of science and so be able to design new devices or new applications from scratch, rather than waiting twenty years for the sciences. Was that something you felt would derive something good out of the merger? Was that anything that you tried to emphasize in your presidency?


Weber:
Well, I always have. I studied in Europe, in Vienna. So, I had a rather fundamental education in the electromagnetic theory, on ______ and all that. That was January 1929, I went from Vienna to Berlin, at Siemens in dynamo work. At that time "electronics" was not yet termed. I had been invited to go to Vienna to give a lecture on one of the electromagnetic problems, and out of it came from my former professor an invitation to Brooklyn Polytechnic as a visiting professor, in September 1930. The prescription was a new credited program, giving credit for electrical engineering with _____ analysis and electromagnetic theory. There were very few institutions in the U.S. at that time that taught electromagnetic theory; they did in physics, but not in electrical engineering. MIT did, of course. I had no idea what was taught and not taught. I had students out of Bell Laboratories and RCA, and my English wasn't very fluent. It was a little British English and not American English, but I was ready to go back. I had my position in Siemens in Berlin and got a proposal to remain and be a research professor. One of the first positions of the kind. I had charge of all the departmental programs in electrical engineering just because of my background, and in turn I learned an awful lot from graduate students who had practical problems but didn't know how to approach them. I could easily tell them why things were so with such and such a problem, and how to use this and that analysis. I learned from my students the kinds of problems at that time, all communications into higher frequencies. That meant from carrier frequencies into what they first called high frequency and ultra high frequency. Problems of radiation slowly crept in when they connected circuits suddenly there were interactions, interference and all sorts of things, and they didn't know what to do about it. In electromagnetic theory, we had two fields and immediately realized that there was interaction. This is why at the beginning of the war, we had already established a fairly whole program and a group that taught about electromagnetic theory and so on. I got Houdly from MIT. We put up the microwave laboratory. In order to get some of the equipment, you had to______. You couldn't get any tubes.


Bell:
Was that the idea of scientific engineering? Was that one of the reasons you felt the two societies could benefit from a merger, that you had the more scientific approach from IRE and the more engineering approach?


Weber:
Well, I had another experience, which dates back earlier. Siemens had an agreement with Westinghouse to work together. Essentially Siemens advised on theory and Westinghouse advised on practice. For example, Siemens had to design a generator and from that design it had to go into production. Westinghouse would produce the model to experience the performance and then design it. Therefore if you had the scientific background you started with the design, and then built. Normally in one way engineering is applied science, it's a bridge from science to technology. Engineering has a bridge as its symbol. In 1952, who was the dean of Cornell?


Int. 2:
In 1952, it was Hollister.


Weber:
Hollister went to Germany after the war, in probably just about 1950. He went with the group from the ASE, the American Society of Engineering mission and I remember he came back and said, "Are we all dumb or are the Germans all geniuses?" Because they designed scientifically. He said, "We must change our curriculum and put in science." MIT threw out the laboratories in order to substitute scientific theory for practice. I was on the committee of Grittà [sp?]. The Grittà report proposed, in order to not offend too many two curricula: one practice-oriented, which is a normal curriculum; and the other science-oriented, which would require more mathematics and physics. We published that as two curricula for choice. The whole faculty in the country said, "This is discrimination. This is first class and second class; we don't accept it." So, we had to sit down and come up with one kind of proposal, and this was when engineering science was created as a term. Engineering science was some more mathematics and physics. In probably also 1950, the Physical Society appointed a committee to advise on the following: they had looked at the electrical engineering curricula and found there was no mention of modern physics. They appointed Segar [sp?] from the National Science Foundation for physics and me for electrical engineering to check through physics and electrical engineering departments in the country. We learned that they should talk to each other, and that not much physics was in an electrical engineering curriculum. So we looked at the textbooks, which had no good electronics. We made a report. The texts had no modern physics in them, nothing except the classical physics in electrical engineering. It is then that Zacharias of MIT got into that physics project. There were no physics texts.


Int. 2:
Was that the stuff for pre-college?


Bell:
PSSC.


Weber:
What, high school?


Int. 2:
Yes.


Weber:
They revised high school physics, and mathematics as a preparation, and created new texts in physics. Polytechnic and many institutions used Houseman's book. In a very large book there were two pages in the back on modern physics. But nothing on quantum theory, photo effect and so on.


Bell:
I was the beneficiary of that pre-college revision of textbooks with PSSC physics and SMSG math, you know.


Int. 2:
Oh really?


Bell:
From junior high, actually. But that was before the so-called new math. We had set theory.


Weber:
The physics and engineering education reports with my co-author Segar were published in the Journal of Engineering Education and in Physics Today.


Educational activities of the IEEE

Int. 2:
Was the IEEE during its first year involved in accreditation?


Weber:
No. AIEE was represented in the Engineering Council for Professional Development. I remember many discussions in IRE that wished to be represented.


Int. 2:
Comparing the educational activities that IEEE's involved now in what sorts of things was IEEE into the first year? Was it minimal?


Weber:
Yes. Quite minimal. The machinery group joined two years later. There were still a few outstanding committees that nobody knew exactly how to deal with and some more professional groups to change their organization.


Int. 2:
Were there any pairs of groups that had a particularly difficult problem in merging?


Weber:
The AIEE had a committee on research and nobody knew what to do with that. It was eventually just simply forgotten. Particular problem caused some of the AIEE committees on heat, directed ______. Hendley Blackmon and I sat down and made a first attempt and had a large amount of leftovers, which were then discussed by other people. I think within, I would say, about 1964; I was chairman of the nominating committee. I made the point that to get members on the board we should select people who are at the same time possible potential for the presidency and have balance. We had more than half of a dozen names, and they all became presidents. One was Reginald Buckerwald from Westinghouse Power, a lovely person; there was Jim Mollicut [sp?], in electronics; right after me came Linder, which was power; the others I would have to look up.


Int. 2:
Was Lowenbroch in there somewhere?


Weber:
Yes. Lowenbroch was in the listing.


Professional functions of the IEEE

Int. 2:
What about the concerns that we now call "professional," how were they dealt with?


Weber:
We used to have the EJC, the Engineers Joint Council. It was concerned about engineering professionals and I was at one time vice-chairman of it. There were different attitudes. The chemical engineers and civil engineers were very strongly for the profession, really in charge of licensing. On the other hand, AIEE didn't quite make the decision, which was a little mixed; I voted against it. Aeronautics [?] was against it. The mechanicals were in part.


Int. 2:
I guess NSPE was a member of EJC.


Weber:
Yes. The AIEE, and particularly IRE, always felt that anybody who has strong professional learnings ought to go into NSPE. I would have to look up when the U.S. Activities Board came into being. There had been a feeling among the membership that somehow the professional aspects ought to be considered and IRE had never much feeling for it. They said that power engineers are principally employed at companies, while chemical engineers and civil engineers often are consultants, and therefore much more concerned about professional status recognition. Legally the states are in charge of licensing now, and it may have been in response to these aspects of consulting engineers that the states assumed the licensing role. Practically every state had different examination requirements and it was NSPE's service to put pressure on state impedances to make all these requirements and examinations unique. The AIEE as well as the IRE insisted that the examinations have some higher frequency content in electronics because they were completely power oriented. The same thing came into the SAT examinations; the first examinations disregarded high frequency areas.

IRE always was non-national, not international. There is a great difference. Emerson Pugh in his last institute speech at Brooklyn I wrote to him and congratulated him because it was well written. It's non-national so that anybody, from any nation can become a member without losing his national identity. It made it tremendously difficult to create the U.S. Activities Board for that reason; it interfered with the basic concept of non-nationality. And it had the further problem. If the total membership fee covers U.S. activities, why do foreign members have to pay for that? I think it has a separate fee now.


Int. 2:
Separate assessment, yes. In Canada as well.

International professional societies

Bell:
Do other nations have their own Activities Boards?


Weber:
Each one has its own professional society. In 1963, at our annual conference, we didn't call it "Euroelectric?" it simply was....


Int. 2:
IEEE.


Weber:
"IEEE Convention." I had had a request from the French society that they had already been active in satellites. Bell Labs had first put up "Echo" which was passive and then "Telstar" as an active orbiting satellite. It was difficult to get in touch with. The French and I got together with Don Fink asking, "How can we do that?" Finally I had the correspondence. I could speak French. So we agreed and I had written out a communiqué. They met in Brest, and AT&T made the arrangements. Up to the last day, practically, we didn't know the timing. It so happened the orbit coincided with the satellite going over Brest. I spoke in French to the French Society wishing them a very good professional future and so on. It was transmitted live, to the surprise of everybody. The president of the French Society hadn't known until then that it would arrive, so he had to answer without preparation. He answered, of course, in French, and wrote me then what he had answered because I didn't hear it. It was an extremely interesting international interchange, and they expressed the desire that, following our example, they would want to merge both the French Society for Electrical Engineers and French Society of Radio Engineers. They never really did. Similarly, the Japanese wanted to do that, but we are much more free and liberal with interchanges, and the Europeans are always much more organization-oriented. You find this everyplace even in international diplomatic exchanges. The president of the Radio Society couldn't give up.


Int. 2:
Going back a little bit, was Dr. Goldsmith involved in the merger in any serious way or he was pretty much retired?


Weber:
Yes. His last strong activity was the fiftieth anniversary in 1962. IEEE is a lovely body with much projection in the future.


National Academy of Engineering, American Association of Engineering Societies

Bell:
You were involved with the founding of the National Academy of Engineering around the time that IEEE was formed. What was the involvement of IEEE with the National Academy?


Weber:
Well, not IEEE. EJC had long argued for an Academy of Engineering. They had a committee working on it and discussions with the Academy of Sciences. Actually there was an EJC committee and a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. I was on the EJC committee and Julius Stratton of MIT was on the Academy of Sciences committee, and we were very good friends. So we completely agreed what our point of view might be and were apprised of the difficulties. The original charter of the Academy of Sciences signed by Lincoln and approved by Congress in 1863 gave the Academy such latitude that if the engineering group insisted on its own charter, Congress would have to limit the charter of the Academy of Sciences because it would overlap. That became a very serious aspect because the Academy of Sciences just wouldn't want to give up their freedom. It was Fred Sykes [sp?], who was at that time president of the Academy of Sciences, who proposed to create under the charter of the Academy of Sciences the Academy of Engineering as an independent organization covered by the charter. We discussed it among ourselves and not everybody of EGC was agreeing. The committee of the Academy of Sciences did agree. Julius Stratton was strong as to what he wanted to do. So we planned a truce in that manner. The governing body of the Academy of Sciences is an Academy Council elected by the membership, so they created a council for the Academy of Engineering that they would elect.

The major concern was the National Research Council, which during the First World War was made permanent. The National Research Council goes back to the original charter of the Academy of Sciences, which says that the Academy should give counsel to the government when requested. In the First World War, the Academy, mostly scientists, created the National Research Council but needed mostly engineers, because the main problems were mostly engineering problems. Sure there were social problems, problems in physics and so on, but in large part the issue was technology. The first world war was not a completely technological war, but was to a large extent. So how to govern the National Research Council? In negotiations it was agreed that a governing board of the National Research Council would be composed of, I am not quite certain of the total number. Let's say fifteen. That would be nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, six members of the National Academy of Engineering. The chairman would be the president of the National Academy of Sciences; the vice-chairman would be the president of the National Academy of Engineering. It was accepted as a first step but immediately, of course, they wanted more equivalence. The last president of the Academy of Sciences came from MIT and therefore was contaminated. Now we have complete equivalence, as many members of the Academy of Engineering as the members of the Academy of Sciences are on the Research Council. Although at first it looked a little distressing we now work together beautifully.


Int. 2:
What happened to EJC? It kind of phased out. Do you have any comments on it?


Weber:
The American Association of Engineering Societies essentially took its place.


Int. 2:
But there was a hiatus there. Could what happened to EJC ever happen to AAES too?


Weber:
No. If, when the first civil engineering society in this country was formed in the 1850s, the engineering profession would have created an engineering society, we wouldn't have all the problems of individual societies.


Bell:
Human nature being what it is, yes.

Problems of establishing umbrella organization

Weber:
There had been so many attempts to get an umbrella society, but really the different professions had different languages, different attitudes.


Int. 2:
What do you think holds an organization together? Is it some common problems that they have at a given point in time?


Weber:
Usually, it is a recognition problem. For example, the very first engineers were seen in terms of military engineering. Then civil engineering was created as separate from military engineering and was not restricted only to civil engineering, but did research. Mechanical engineering came next. They didn't feel akin to civil engineering and so the first split occurred. Then came electrical engineering.


Bell:
AIAA was created in...


Weber:
In 1884. In Philadelphia, at the time of the World Exhibit.


Int. 2:
Do you think in retrospect that the USAB decision is working?


Weber:
At one time, USAB wanted to become politically active. There was much divided feeling, publications by a number of members who felt our profession should not get political and others who felt in order to get real recognition to the profession it must have political clout. We still have a division. Even among the U.S. Activities Board it remains. The physicists have the same problem nowadays; they also have a group that's politically interested. A little bit of money is behind it; there are government allocations and so on.


Int. 2:
If it had not been formed when it was, would something else have happened to replace it, another organization?


Weber:
I knew that from the very beginning when I heard the first murmurs about professional activities. To some extent it leads back again to the chemicals and civils that were in the licensing business originally, and had more professional recognition. Everybody looks at the medical profession as getting real recognition, but at the same time there is also political repercussion in terms of government regulation. I'm not certain I don't feel strongly about that. One of the real problems that plagued engineering during the Second World War was that all the publications in the newspapers were about science. Science did this, science did that. Engineers felt left out. Even at IEEE meetings we have discussions, on why science always got credit for something the engineers did.


Bell:
One of your papers was on that.

IEEE and public perception of engineers

Int. 2:
Do you think there has been a marked change in the public's perception of engineers over the past twenty-five years?


Weber:
Yes. There is much more information on what we are doing. For one thing those papers now talk about technology and engineering as distinct from science, and the National Science Foundation now has a strong engineering group. The public is very, very slow to accept any change, and unless it is drummed in continuously you can't achieve much.


Int. 2:
I know that the hierarchy of IEEE has always been concerned with the image part of the profession. How does the image, whether it is good or bad or non-existent, affect the profession itself? That is to say, supposing there were relatively no positive recognition professionally because in the eyes of the public we are a dull profession. How would that affect the individual engineer?


Weber:
Let me give a little illustration. In Europe there are two kinds of engineering schools; they call themselves engineering schools. Yet there is a difference. Some are actually engineering schools and others are technical universities. This was created to avoid conflict and mix-up, but someone graduated from the technical university now has a degreed diploma to be an engineer and he is called "head engineer." Here nobody would call a person, "Mr. Engineer,” we call them "Doctor" but "engineer" has no meaning. An engineer is someone that fixes plumbing.


Bell:
Sanitary engineering.


Weber:
But in Europe, generally the engineer is recognized by title.


Bell:
What about those coming out of the engineering schools? What are those persons called?


Weber:
They also call them "engineer" but they cannot call them a "diploma engineer." People generally know if they are the university type or not. They know their positions in the system.


Int. 2:
My first contact with the actual use of those titles was when I gave a talk in Singapore, to the Singapore engineers. Before I got on, there were some introductions, and I quickly caught on that when you thank various people in your introduction, you say, "Thank you, Engineer so and so." I checked with my host and I wanted to make sure that the people I was going to mention were in fact engineers and I wouldn't embarrass anybody. So he helped me check them all.


Weber:
Yes. In some instances, people really get offended if they don't call them by that in Europe. Occasionally, I get letters, which use the title of "doctor." Titles acquire status.


Int. 2:
Status is a psychic reward, and that part at least to that extent, seems unreachable in the foreseeable future in the U.S. I don't foresee the day when we will be called engineers, but aside from the psychic reward if that were to happen, what other benefits would you see if we could raise the status of the professional in the U.S.?


Weber:
It would have to get to the level of the medical profession. Everybody calls them "doctors." And this is what a number of people think should happen.


Engineering education

Int. 2:
What about the level of U.S. engineers' education generally? Not talking about formal education, but about education in a broad sense. Put whatever factors you want in there: intelligence, broad concerns. Where would you put engineers versus other professions like lawyers, and doctors and so forth? In some sense, the surgeon could be considered a mechanic.


Weber:
It's very easy. This has been discussed many times in educational circles all over. Remember that the lawyer and the medical man have to go after four normal years to a professional school, so they must have graduate degrees. There have been definite recommendations that a lawyer for example should also really have a doctor's stamp, because he has three years of graduate study like the M.D. The other persons, of course, are some clerical and church people. They also have graduate degrees to get their professional titles. With the degree of doctor in engineering, one of the problems is that you have universities of all kinds of ranks and qualifications. In good schools, the degree of doctor of engineering is fully equivalent to the toughest degree in any other area. But it is not as recognized. Lawyers usually have "esquire," even in this country, but an engineer can't do that.


Bell:
Guy signs, "DSCE."


Int. 2:
That's Doctor of Science.


Bell:
I thought it was engineering, I am sorry.


Int. 2:
Well, it is in electrical engineering.


Weber:
In this country they don't use those.


Int. 2:
Let us say that certain people are attracted to engineering and not all of them get Ph.D.'s, but do get a certain amount of experience and living and so forth after ten or twenty years out of school. Do you have any feeling of their intrinsic education versus a lawyer or a doctor? In other words, I am on a jury or a committee, I try to evaluate other people. You have a lot more experience at that and I wondered if you had any feelings about the intrinsic level of intelligence and education. I am afraid I find a lot of Ph.D.'s in other areas who I think would be very logical thinkers, but who are not very logical actors. So, do you have any feeling on where we rank in this spectrum of "intelligentsia," if you will?


Weber:
It's primarily a matter of personality. Education can be very variable. We frequently have the problem that some young man comes from an institution where there is nothing around, and he wants to enroll in graduate study. He had had a bachelor's degree from someplace, but typically every university in the country has an evaluation for all undergraduate programs, and you cannot be admitted to a graduate program in engineering or in science without having certain preparation, and some students have to make up classes. That evaluation system generally does not exist in Europe. In Europe the university degree is more standardized. Practically all universities, except for maybe two in England are government institutions. There are no private universities and they have exactly the same requirements for the whole country. Normally a student is advised to go to this university or to take courses in that university because there is an especially good professor there and he can transfer back and make up credits here. All credits are interchangeable.


Bell:
Sometimes your entire degree is transferable.


Weber:
Well, we have a very strong tendency towards egalitarianism. People are born equal, no question. This makes them equal. Every institution gives the same bachelor's degree but you know immediately if you get a bachelor degree from Harvard University or from say some university in Alabama, it is different. Every institution has evaluations. It gives the populace a general feeling of equality and then some of them have to find out they are not quite equal. They are all officially equal, but some are actually more equal than others. This exists nowhere else. So, in this sense, you really have to think about the total social structure and what people eventually mean. A real person, wherever he comes from, is a real person, no matter what his training and education are. But this is probably responsible for the fact that you still have a little more status feeling in Europe. By contrasts here generally everybody calls themselves by first names immediately or almost immediately, no matter what their positions are. This has grown up with this country based upon the concepts of our constitution. You cannot compare; you really have to accept the setting, so I really cannot answer your question fully.


Int. 2:
I was trying to find out whether you thought there were as many real people, as you define them, in our profession as there are in professions that happen to have higher public images.


Weber:
Sure. We really need to accept that humankind is the same the world over. Abilities are distributed unequally, and I would say fortunately, because we want to have musicians, we want to have doctors; we want to have someone who can repair cars. I would give no hierarchy in terms of greater value to society, because we need them all.