IEEE
You are not logged in, please sign in to edit > Log in / create account  

Oral-History:Ron Kline

From GHN

(Difference between revisions)
Jump to: navigation, search
m (Text replace - "[[Category:Defense & security" to "[[Category:Military applications")
 
(12 intermediate revisions by 2 users not shown)
Line 3: Line 3:
 
Ron Kline was born in Oswego, Kansas in 1947. He attended Kansas State University in electrical engineering, and after graduating he worked at [[General Electric (GE)|GE]] on defense contracts for eight years. After GE, Kline briefly attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the computer science program, but then pursued his interest in history at the University of Wisconsin’s program in History of Science in 1977, studying the history of electrical engineering. After getting his Ph.D., Kline taught one year of technical writing at Wisconsin before becoming director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering (now the [[IEEE History Center|IEEE History Center]]) in 1984. During his time at the Center, Kline also taught at Union Cooper and did work on [[Charles Proteus Steinmetz|Charles Proteus Steinmetz]]. In the late 1980s, Kline left the Center for a position at Cornell University in the electrical engineering school teaching the history of technology, and he runs the Bovay Program in History and Ethics of Engineering. Kline also became active in the [[IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology History|Society on Social Implications of Technology]] (SSIT) while at Cornell, and he served as the society’s president (1991-1992) and editor of its magazine.  
 
Ron Kline was born in Oswego, Kansas in 1947. He attended Kansas State University in electrical engineering, and after graduating he worked at [[General Electric (GE)|GE]] on defense contracts for eight years. After GE, Kline briefly attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the computer science program, but then pursued his interest in history at the University of Wisconsin’s program in History of Science in 1977, studying the history of electrical engineering. After getting his Ph.D., Kline taught one year of technical writing at Wisconsin before becoming director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering (now the [[IEEE History Center|IEEE History Center]]) in 1984. During his time at the Center, Kline also taught at Union Cooper and did work on [[Charles Proteus Steinmetz|Charles Proteus Steinmetz]]. In the late 1980s, Kline left the Center for a position at Cornell University in the electrical engineering school teaching the history of technology, and he runs the Bovay Program in History and Ethics of Engineering. Kline also became active in the [[IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology History|Society on Social Implications of Technology]] (SSIT) while at Cornell, and he served as the society’s president (1991-1992) and editor of its magazine.  
  
In this interview, Kline talks about his career and education, but the focus is on his involvement with the IEEE. He discusses his interest in history, why he left GE, how he came to attend Wisconsin’s program in the history of science, and his decision to study electrical history. The importance of being both an engineer and historian within the IEEE and at Cornell is also covered. Kline’s work as director at the History Center is discussed at length, particularly the question of the role the Center was to play, and the model of the discipline-based history center. He also talks about working with the History Committee and other issues such as fund raising, growth and outreach, and ideas of moving the Center from New York to a university (the History Center moved to Rutgers University in 1990). Kline emphasizes the importance of  networking and IEEE history programs like the [[Milestones:IEEE Milestones Program|Milestones program]], as well as the archives and bibliography projects going on when he came to the Center. His move from staff member to volunteer with his work for SSIT is also discussed, as well as his presidency and editorship for SSIT. Kline also mentions many of the people he worked with at IEEE, including Joyce Bedi, Eric Herz, [[Harold Chestnut|Harold Chestnut]], and Woody Gannett.
+
In this interview, Kline talks about his career and education, but the focus is on his involvement with the IEEE. He discusses his interest in history, why he left GE, how he came to attend Wisconsin’s program in the history of science, and his decision to study electrical history. The importance of being both an engineer and historian within the IEEE and at Cornell is also covered. Kline’s work as director at the History Center is discussed at length, particularly the question of the role the Center was to play, and the model of the discipline-based history center. He also talks about working with the History Committee and other issues such as fund raising, growth and outreach, and ideas of moving the Center from New York to a university (the History Center moved to Rutgers University in 1990). Kline emphasizes the importance of  networking and IEEE history programs like the [[Milestones:IEEE Milestones Program|Milestones program]], as well as the archives and bibliography projects going on when he came to the Center. His move from staff member to volunteer with his work for SSIT is also discussed, as well as his presidency and editorship for SSIT. Kline also mentions many of the people he worked with at IEEE, including Joyce Bedi, [[Eric Herz]], [[Harold Chestnut|Harold Chestnut]], and Woody Gannett.  
  
 
== About the Interview  ==
 
== About the Interview  ==
Line 9: Line 9:
 
RON KLINE: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 3 October 2010  
 
RON KLINE: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 3 October 2010  
  
Interview #549 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
+
Interview #549 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.
  
 
== Copyright Statement  ==
 
== Copyright Statement  ==
Line 15: Line 15:
 
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.  
 
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, 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.  
+
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 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:  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
  
Ron Kline, an oral history conducted in 2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
+
Ron Kline, an oral history conducted in 2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.  
  
 
== Interview  ==
 
== Interview  ==
Line 235: Line 235:
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
  
That’s what oral history is like - think back to things that happened, you know, over 25 years ago.
+
That’s what oral history is like - think back to things that happened, you know, over 25 years ago.  
  
 
=== Staff, Archive and Bibliography Projects  ===
 
=== Staff, Archive and Bibliography Projects  ===
Line 343: Line 343:
 
So I remember talking with him briefly. I talked to Spencer a lot more. And then when Arthur Norberg was at the Babbage Institute - and also I remember talking with [[Oral-History:Erwin Tomash|Erwin Tomash]] when Adele and he came to town. The nice thing about being in New York, there’s a node there. So my idea of what the History Center should be doing, especially in regard to the archives and to oral histories and to being the center for information about collections, was informed by that. In fact, there were a couple of articles written by, I think, Joan Warnow about discipline-based history centers. And to me that’s really what formed it. I mean that part formed my perception as [to] how someone trained in a history of science program directs a discipline-based history center because there were already these models. There was that.  
 
So I remember talking with him briefly. I talked to Spencer a lot more. And then when Arthur Norberg was at the Babbage Institute - and also I remember talking with [[Oral-History:Erwin Tomash|Erwin Tomash]] when Adele and he came to town. The nice thing about being in New York, there’s a node there. So my idea of what the History Center should be doing, especially in regard to the archives and to oral histories and to being the center for information about collections, was informed by that. In fact, there were a couple of articles written by, I think, Joan Warnow about discipline-based history centers. And to me that’s really what formed it. I mean that part formed my perception as [to] how someone trained in a history of science program directs a discipline-based history center because there were already these models. There was that.  
  
Then there was the [[IEEE History Committee History|History Committee]] in the IEEE, and usually with Barney Finn. But the chairman was [[Harold Chestnut|Harold Chestnut]], who was a former [[Presidents of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)|president of the IEEE]], a very well regarded person with a strong interest in history. And the History Center then would have ideas about what we should do involving, for example, this [[Milestones:IEEE Milestones Program|Milestones program]] recognizing historic landmarks. And also this is about growth. Now we get back to the centennial and an outgrowth of what the various societies were doing as far as the centennial and always trying to have some sort of outreach there. That was very key. So Ed Herold, who was at [[RCA (Radio Corporation of America)|RCA]], who had worked in computer memory. So there’s a lot of, quite frankly, very good people on that History Committee. So there was what the History Committee felt we should be doing, and we tried to do as well, while I thought - I mean these all intersected the discipline-based history center, and then being on the staff. We were right there on the staff. Eric Herz’s office was right down the hall and there’s an archives room there as well, and so forth. So there were a lot of connections. There’s a lot of connections between the Center. And I remember the MIT Museum. We would meet at the MIT Museum, that is the History Committee meeting, or Helen Samuels, who was head of the MIT archives, would come look at the archives [and] talk to Joyce Bedi.  
+
Then there was the [[IEEE History Committee History|History Committee]] in the IEEE, and usually with Barney Finn. But the chairman was [[Harold Chestnut|Harold Chestnut]], who was a former [[Presidents of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)|president of the IEEE]], a very well regarded person with a strong interest in history. And the History Center then would have ideas about what we should do involving, for example, this [[Milestones:IEEE Milestones Program|Milestones program]] recognizing historic landmarks. And also this is about growth. Now we get back to the centennial and an outgrowth of what the various societies were doing as far as the centennial and always trying to have some sort of outreach there. That was very key. So Ed Herold, who was at [[RCA (Radio Corporation of America)|RCA]], who had worked in computer memory. So there’s a lot of, quite frankly, very good people on that History Committee. So there was what the History Committee felt we should be doing, and we tried to do as well, while I thought - I mean these all intersected the discipline-based history center, and then being on the staff. We were right there on the staff. [[Eric Herz|Eric Herz’s]] office was right down the hall and there’s an archives room there as well, and so forth. So there were a lot of connections. There’s a lot of connections between the Center. And I remember the MIT Museum. We would meet at the MIT Museum, that is the History Committee meeting, or Helen Samuels, who was head of the MIT archives, would come look at the archives [and] talk to Joyce Bedi.  
  
 
=== Placing Collections  ===
 
=== Placing Collections  ===
Line 680: Line 680:
  
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
 +
 +
<flashmp3>549 - kline - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3>
  
 
In what ways, if any - we may probably already have touched on some of them - did the Center evolve or change over your three years there?  
 
In what ways, if any - we may probably already have touched on some of them - did the Center evolve or change over your three years there?  
Line 809: Line 811:
 
'''Kline:'''  
 
'''Kline:'''  
  
Yes, let me see. So Professor Terry Fine, in electrical engineering, who was on the search committee for the history position - it was a college-wide search committee which had someone from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science. I think Bill Aspray and I were both candidates for that job. So when I was selected, I was put in electrical engineering because that’s what I studied, the history of electrical engineering. Professor Terry Fine was president of the Society - PGIT - Professional Group on Information Theory - it was still a professional group then - they were very proud of that fact. So he was president of that group, and he says, “I get to appoint someone as a member of the board to attend governing board meetings of SSIT. This looks like something you might be interested in doing.” So I said, “Sure.” So I went down. I knew about the Society and I knew about Steve Unger. I never had met him. The meetings were in New York always. They were at Columbia. It was an easy trip. I went down and I got to know that group, and what came first? I guess the presidency or vice presidency, is that right? I’d have to look at my vitae to see whether I was president first or editor. I think I was president. I can’t remember.  
+
Yes, let me see. So Professor Terry Fine, in electrical engineering, who was on the search committee for the history position - it was a college-wide search committee which had someone from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science. I think [[Oral-History:William Aspray|Bill Aspray]] and I were both candidates for that job. So when I was selected, I was put in electrical engineering because that’s what I studied, the history of electrical engineering. Professor Terry Fine was president of the Society - PGIT - Professional Group on Information Theory - it was still a professional group then - they were very proud of that fact. So he was president of that group, and he says, “I get to appoint someone as a member of the board to attend governing board meetings of SSIT. This looks like something you might be interested in doing.” So I said, “Sure.” So I went down. I knew about the Society and I knew about Steve Unger. I never had met him. The meetings were in New York always. They were at Columbia. It was an easy trip. I went down and I got to know that group, and what came first? I guess the presidency or vice presidency, is that right? I’d have to look at my vitae to see whether I was president first or editor. I think I was president. I can’t remember.  
  
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
 
'''Hochheiser:'''  
Line 883: Line 885:
 
'''Kline:'''  
 
'''Kline:'''  
  
Great. Good.  
+
Great. Good.
 
+
[[Category:Computers_and_information_processing|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Computer_science|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Memory|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Culture_and_society|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Engineering_profession|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Engineering_education|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Environment,_geoscience_&_remote_sensing|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Geophysics|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:IEEE|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Governance|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Bylaws|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Staff|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Historical_activities|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:History_&_heritage|{{PAGENAME}}]] [[Category:Publications|{{PAGENAME}}]]
+
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations|{{PAGENAME}}]]
+
[[Category:Computing and electronics|Kline]] [[Category:Computer science|Kline]] [[Category:Memory|Kline]] [[Category:Engineering and society|Kline]] [[Category:Military applications|Kline]] [[Category:Profession|Kline]] [[Category:Engineering education|Kline]] [[Category:Environment|Kline]] [[Category:Geophysics|Kline]] [[Category:IEEE|Kline]] [[Category:Governance|Kline]] [[Category:Bylaws|Kline]] [[Category:Staff|Kline]] [[Category:Historical activities|Kline]] [[Category:History & heritage|Kline]] [[Category:Publications|Kline]] [[Category:People and organizations|Kline]] [[Category:Universities|Kline]] [[Category:Corporations|Kline]] [[Category:Nuclear and plasma sciences|Kline]]
[[Category:Universities|{{PAGENAME}}]]
+
[[Category:Corporations|{{PAGENAME}}]]
+
[[Category:Nuclear_and_plasma_sciences|{{PAGENAME}}]]
+

Latest revision as of 10:47, 29 July 2014

Contents

About Ron Kline

Ron Kline was born in Oswego, Kansas in 1947. He attended Kansas State University in electrical engineering, and after graduating he worked at GE on defense contracts for eight years. After GE, Kline briefly attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the computer science program, but then pursued his interest in history at the University of Wisconsin’s program in History of Science in 1977, studying the history of electrical engineering. After getting his Ph.D., Kline taught one year of technical writing at Wisconsin before becoming director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering (now the IEEE History Center) in 1984. During his time at the Center, Kline also taught at Union Cooper and did work on Charles Proteus Steinmetz. In the late 1980s, Kline left the Center for a position at Cornell University in the electrical engineering school teaching the history of technology, and he runs the Bovay Program in History and Ethics of Engineering. Kline also became active in the Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) while at Cornell, and he served as the society’s president (1991-1992) and editor of its magazine.

In this interview, Kline talks about his career and education, but the focus is on his involvement with the IEEE. He discusses his interest in history, why he left GE, how he came to attend Wisconsin’s program in the history of science, and his decision to study electrical history. The importance of being both an engineer and historian within the IEEE and at Cornell is also covered. Kline’s work as director at the History Center is discussed at length, particularly the question of the role the Center was to play, and the model of the discipline-based history center. He also talks about working with the History Committee and other issues such as fund raising, growth and outreach, and ideas of moving the Center from New York to a university (the History Center moved to Rutgers University in 1990). Kline emphasizes the importance of  networking and IEEE history programs like the Milestones program, as well as the archives and bibliography projects going on when he came to the Center. His move from staff member to volunteer with his work for SSIT is also discussed, as well as his presidency and editorship for SSIT. Kline also mentions many of the people he worked with at IEEE, including Joyce Bedi, Eric Herz, Harold Chestnut, and Woody Gannett.

About the Interview

RON KLINE: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 3 October 2010

Interview #549 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.

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, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 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:

Ron Kline, an oral history conducted in 2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Ron Kline

Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser

Date: 3 October 2010

Location: Tacoma, Washington

Background and Education

Hochheiser:

This is Sheldon Hochheiser. It’s the 3rd of October, 2010. I am here at the Annual Conference of the Society for History of Technology with Professor Ron Kline, Cornell University, and many years ago, the Director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering. Good morning.

Kline:

Good morning.

Hochheiser:

If we could start with just a little bit of background. Where were you born and raised?

Kline:

In Oswego, Kansas in 1947. A small town, a very small town.

Hochheiser:

And where did you go to school?

Kline:

Kansas State University in engineering, on a National Student Defense loan, and electrical engineering because my father had a hardware store and he didn’t know anything about electronics and I had learned about electronics as a kid. And so I handled the electronics part. So that’s why electrical engineering.

Hochheiser:

What was the electrical engineering curriculum like at Kansas State when you were there?

Kline:

It’s standard. There was this big change, which I learned later, right, from making engineering education more scientific. So this was in the sixties, ’65. So it was mostly analytical courses. In fact, when I graduated and went to work for GE, I realized they didn’t tell you that things could be designed differently. They’re many solutions to a problem, and so you had to do a lot of reading, you had to do a lot of writing and speaking. It was [a] big shock to me.

Hochheiser:

Was there a student chapter of IEEE, and if so, were you involved?

Kline:

I don’t think I even knew about it, quite frankly. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know about it.

GE

Hochheiser:

What led you from your degree to General Electric?

Kline:

The Vietnam War basically, because during the lottery for the draft, my draft number was 63. It was the last year you could get an occupational deferment because President Johnson had cut off the deferments for graduate school. I wanted to go to graduate school. I wanted to change over to history. I was doing well in engineering, but I wanted to change over to history when I was a junior. The war was going on so I knew I would probably have a better chance of getting out of the war if I stayed in engineering. So I stayed in engineering. I had a couple of job offers in the defense industry – ’69 – so I chose GE over Boeing in Seattle because their defense contracts seemed to be a little iffy. So I chose GE.

Hochheiser:

How long were you with GE?

Kline:

A long time, eight years. Quite frankly, the money was good, and I believed in mutually assured destruction until James Schlesinger came out with ‘Limited Nuclear War’ and I was sent down to Cape Kennedy with a bunch of software to enable those missile submarines to be retargeted easily. And then I started to question the whole thing, and then I started thinking about going back for history. Then we were over in Scotland. The submarines are tied to the tender and I used to walk across the gangplank or whatever to get to the submarines, and there were live nuclear weapons sitting over there, and I thought “I don’t want any part of this.”

History of Science at Wisconsin, Teaching

Hochheiser:

So that turned you back to history where you had much earlier thought of going?

Kline:

Right. Precisely.

Hochheiser:

What led you to the University of Wisconsin rather than somewhere else?

Kline:

Sure, I’ll tell the story. I married Marge in Scotland – my wife, Marge – in’76. I wanted to go into history. She said, “No, you can’t do that. No jobs.” So she said “You can go into computer science.” So I was admitted into a computer science program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – artificial intelligence – and that summer I took classes in history, and she didn’t know that. She learned that that was what was going on. And that summer, this professor took me and another student who did well up to his office, and there was a little brochure - History of Science at Wisconsin. I had never heard of that program. So this is in late July, August. I applied and I was accepted to Wisconsin that year. So that was ’77. So it was perfect. It just seemed perfect, and it was perfect.

Hochheiser:

Can you just talk a little bit about your graduate education at Wisconsin?

Kline:

When I was there, I didn’t want to do anything with engineering. I just wanted to be completely as far away from engineering as possible. I don’t know if it had been the Middle Ages, but definitely early, early modern period, scientific revolution. And I think it was Victor Hilts, Professor Hilts who, convinced me - or maybe Terry Reynolds - to use my background in engineering and study the history of engineering. So that’s what did it. And in fact, when I was there, it was the IEEE Fellowship [in] Electrical History that really - you know, I was trying to decide between two dissertation topics. This is why that fellowship is really important. I had to make a decision of the two dissertation topics. One was with Professor Ron Numbers and Humboldtian science in [the] nineteenth century, and the other was some sort of history of electrical engineering. And this IEEE fellowship came up and I did a short proposal for it. I think I’m the second person to receive it. And Reed Crone, I still remember the letter from Reed Crone, and so I made the decision. You know, it was a combination of things. People convinced me to use my background, but this would have worked out too, to go into Humboldtian geophysics. That fellowship made a big difference. It was terrific. And then I started working with Terry Reynolds. As you know, there were two historians of technology there, Ed Daub and Terry Reynolds and - yes, that fellowship was [a] big thing. It was a whole year off; otherwise I don’t know, quite frankly, if I would have finished my dissertation in six years.

Hochheiser:

Was that the first you had heard of IEEE?

Kline:

Oh, I think I heard about it at GE. I’m pretty sure I heard about it at GE. But, no, I was not a member.

Hochheiser:

But you were not a member?

Kline:

No.

Hochheiser:

Now did you go directly from finishing your dissertation to IEEE?

Kline:

No. I taught for one year a technical writing class.

Hochheiser:

At Wisconsin?

Kline:

At Wisconsin, as a lecturer.

Starting at IEEE

And then this position came up at the IEEE, and I applied for that.

Hochheiser:

How did you hear of that position?

Kline:

I think because of the IEEE fellowship, and I knew all those fellows too, people who received that award. I think Bernie Carlson might have received it. I was known within that little network so I must have heard of it. I don’t know quite how I heard about it, but I think they might have told me or they might have told all the fellowship winners “The thing’s available,” I guess. Maybe from [Robert] Friedel, I’m not quite sure.

Hochheiser:

What made it attractive enough for you to apply for the job?

Kline:

I don’t know. It was New York City for one thing, but also I knew about the discipline-based history centers. So that was attractive. Plus, I like the fact of doing something with a degree, of a job that was what I was trained to do -history of science and technology - and that was mainly it.

Hochheiser:

Do you recall the process by which you interviewed? Who interviewed you?

Kline:

Oh yes, I can almost see the room. So there was David Hounshell probably Jim Brittain, probably Barney Finn, I think. I forget, maybe Reed Crone or someone like that was in the room too. And it was a good interview. And I liked the fact that David Hounshell was there, quite frankly. And I don’t know if I knew Robert [Friedel] before then or not. I can’t recall.

Hochheiser:

So Robert was involved in the interview process?

Kline:

I don’t recall that he was. I remember clearly Hounshell and Jim Brittain and Barney Finn. I knew Jim Brittain because of the work I was doing on [Charles Proteus] Steinmetz because he had written an article about Steinmetz, and he had been thinking about writing - and I remember calling him, in the old days you could call - and asking if he was going to do Steinmetz, and I was thinking about doing this and so forth. And I think a couple of those people probably were on the IEEE Fellowship Selection Committee too, probably.

Hochheiser:

And obviously you decided that you were interested in the position. Was deciding to accept the offer at all difficult?

Kline:

The main thing that made it difficult was that my wife, Marge, was still finishing her degree, so we decided that she would stay behind and finish. That was about it really. I mean it was the best job, quite frankly. There were other positions, like at Auburn and somewhere else, [but] to me, this was the best fit.

Hochheiser:

Was it a full-time position?

Kline:

Oh, yes. No question.

Hochheiser:

But the reason I asked - when Robert started it was not a full-time position. So the question comes up, and I’ll ask Robert when I interview him.

Kline:

I knew Robert because of SHOT meetings, where I give some papers.

Hochheiser:

When did you arrive in New York to start?

Kline:

It must have been ’84. It must have been in August, I guess.

Hochheiser:

Now had Robert departed by then?

Kline:

No, I think he was - now I don’t know if this was during the interview process or not because, as well, he introduced me to a faculty member at Cooper Union where he was teaching in the evenings, and he wanted me to take over that course for him too. I may be collapsing things.

Hochheiser:

That’s okay.

Kline:

I don’t know when that occurred.

Hochheiser:

That’s what oral history is like - think back to things that happened, you know, over 25 years ago.

Staff, Archive and Bibliography Projects

Kline:

So I remember Joyce Bedi, definitely Joyce Bedi, I think Bob Casey was there too.

Hochheiser:

So you arrive in August and you have a staff. Joyce was there and you think Bob was there?

Kline:

I think Bob Casey was, I’m not quite sure. There was a buildup for the centennial and then there was a cutback so I don’t know when he stopped doing that. Plus we had two researchers there whom we worked with quite a bit. One was Tom Lindblom and the other was Craig Semsel. So they were interns during my three years there, or four years there.

Hochheiser:

I take it that these were people on short-term positions as interns?

Kline:

Tom Lindblom had been a student of Susan Douglas’s at Amherst. One of the major projects that was going on there [was] the catalog of descriptions of archives. So he was working on that. In fact, I think if you looked [at] whose names are on that, it’s Lindblom and Bedi and myself, and Semsel’s named on one of those too, I think. Craig Semsel was interested in history of technology, and he eventually got his PhD at Case Western. There were two projects like that. There was that archives project, which took a long time to finish, and there was the bibliography.

Hochheiser:

Then these came out as books?

Kline:

As IEEE publications. One I still see in the library. I see them both. They must have been sent to libraries, but they’re not like an IEEE press book.

Hochheiser:

Right. They were published by IEEE itself and not by the press.

Kline:

In fact, they may have been published by the History Center.

Hochheiser:

By the History Center.

Kline:

Right.

Hochheiser:

So you have these two projects. There’s the catalog of archival collections?

Kline:

Right.

Hochheiser:

Was the other the oral history collection or a bibliography?

Kline:

There was a bibliography.

Hochheiser:

So now these two projects were already ongoing when you arrived?

Kline:

Right. The centennial stuff was over.

Hochheiser:

But it was the fall of ’84 when you arrived.

Kline:

Oh, they were not over.

Hochheiser:

Right. Well it may have been over as far as anything the History Center had to do. But did you do anything between when you arrived and the end of the centennial year, related to the centennial?

Kline:

Yes, I remember going to some sections to give talks, roughly, and for the History Committee.

Discipline-Based History Centers, History Committee

So let me back up a little bit about the whole structure of it. So my understanding of the History Center’s function was informed a lot by the whole movement of that time for discipline-based history centers, right? So, I mean, Spencer Weart’s place, the Center for the History of Physics at the AIP, was just around the corner.

Hochheiser:

You were both in New York at the time?

Kline:

Yes, so I was on some of their advisory committees. Spencer was on a couple - one advisory committee. Like there was the Laser History project. So there was a lot of talking with Spencer and Joan Warnow there about what the role of a discipline-based history center should be. Arnold Thackray - I remember visiting when his place in Philadelphia [The Center for the History of Chemistry] was small. I don’t know when you came to do the work there.

Hochheiser:

I was there already. I started in December of ’82, but you’re right, it’s the period when Arnold was starting up the History of Chemistry Center.

Kline:

So I remember talking with him briefly. I talked to Spencer a lot more. And then when Arthur Norberg was at the Babbage Institute - and also I remember talking with Erwin Tomash when Adele and he came to town. The nice thing about being in New York, there’s a node there. So my idea of what the History Center should be doing, especially in regard to the archives and to oral histories and to being the center for information about collections, was informed by that. In fact, there were a couple of articles written by, I think, Joan Warnow about discipline-based history centers. And to me that’s really what formed it. I mean that part formed my perception as [to] how someone trained in a history of science program directs a discipline-based history center because there were already these models. There was that.

Then there was the History Committee in the IEEE, and usually with Barney Finn. But the chairman was Harold Chestnut, who was a former president of the IEEE, a very well regarded person with a strong interest in history. And the History Center then would have ideas about what we should do involving, for example, this Milestones program recognizing historic landmarks. And also this is about growth. Now we get back to the centennial and an outgrowth of what the various societies were doing as far as the centennial and always trying to have some sort of outreach there. That was very key. So Ed Herold, who was at RCA, who had worked in computer memory. So there’s a lot of, quite frankly, very good people on that History Committee. So there was what the History Committee felt we should be doing, and we tried to do as well, while I thought - I mean these all intersected the discipline-based history center, and then being on the staff. We were right there on the staff. Eric Herz’s office was right down the hall and there’s an archives room there as well, and so forth. So there were a lot of connections. There’s a lot of connections between the Center. And I remember the MIT Museum. We would meet at the MIT Museum, that is the History Committee meeting, or Helen Samuels, who was head of the MIT archives, would come look at the archives [and] talk to Joyce Bedi.

Placing Collections

Robert’s there - I can see Robert there talking about the archives, and how much we should collect - this is a very expensive property - how much we should collect, what should we do. So this will all be interconnected. So one of the things, for example, about the archives was - I don’t remember what policies we had about it, but - this is why it’s good to talk with Joyce - one of the thing[s] was first of all we’re going to be known for disseminating information about archives. Then when people call and have collections, we’re going to try to place them, not to be a center for them.

Hochheiser:

You don’t want the collections yourself, but you want to find the right place elsewhere for the collection and you want to know about it.

Kline:

Yes. For example, and I don’t know if Joyce remembers this, we got some papers that were related to Ernst Berg and I was going up to Schenectady and working in the Steinmetz papers up there - and Ernst Berg was an electrical engineer and professor. He was a collaborator of Steinmetz at GE. Then he went to Illinois. There were some Ernst Berg papers and they had letters from [Albert] Einstein. Someone had given them to us. And I said, “Really this belongs up at Union College.” And here we have this great stuff but anyone who was going to work on that period really should go to Union College to use it. So those are the kinds of decisions we would make. And that stuff is probably not in any report, right? It’s probably not in any report or in any newsletter or so forth. We would get calls from people who had archives. We’d always get calls. People had equipment. We would always refer them to Barney, and I don’t know what Barney would do. But we would always get those kinds of calls. We had good connections with the Smithsonian through Barney. So that’s what we did. Also, that project with the NUCMC - National Union Catalog and Manuscript Collection - stuff. What it was doing was taking all these descriptions of archives and publishing them in this book with an index. That took a long time. Today it would be done a lot differently. Today you can also search the NUCMC Collection. I don’t know, quite frankly, if that’s necessary today, right? Then it seemed necessary, and we had one on computer collections too.

Collecting Archives, Oral Histories, Milestones

Hochheiser:

Well, what did you collect in the archives? Was there a strategy for what things you did want?

Kline:

Mostly IEEE records that a society or some other entity in the IEEE for some reason did not want to collect. I think that’s basically what we got. I think there are corporate records in there. And again, Joyce would know more about that.

Hochheiser:

Of course, I know what’s there today.

Kline:

I forgot we had done oral histories until I was looking some things up on the web a couple of years ago and I found my name associated with [Harold] Wheeler. I remember doing that interview with him. I forgot that we had done some of those.

Hochheiser:

But oral history was not a big priority while you were there?

Kline:

No, but it was part of the operation because of this - I’ll go back only to the discipline-based history centers. But that’s what we should be. We didn’t have the resources the others did, but we wanted to do the same kinds of projects.

Hochheiser:

Can you talk a bit about the Milestones program?

Kline:

The History Committee was very keen on that, and after the centennial I also saw it as a way to actually have some kind of contact with sections and societies. So I remember going out to two or three or four of those places. And I think from that point of view it was a good thing. So I guess my focus was on archives. So what I was thinking about as well, going out, like there would be a way to make those ties. For example, I remember the Westinghouse Atom Smasher milestone.

Hochheiser:

We have a nice picture of the archives and you at the Atom Smasher milestone dedication.

Kline:

Good. So actually some scholarship resulted from that; there’s a couple of papers written about that. I got to know the guy at the Westinghouse Industrial Research Laboratory, John Coltman, through that. If I would have stayed at the IEEE, it would have been research I was doing as part of my own research. But he actually had access to some of those records. I remember giving papers at the Westinghouse section a couple of times. I think the head of the Westinghouse section was on the IEEE History Committee for a while. So to me, that was the benefit of it all. I mean there’s a public benefit to it too, definitely so. But to me, as far as running the Center, it had those kinds of connections. It was the most visible part.

Joyce Bedi: Newsletter, Exhibits

Hochheiser:

What did Joyce spend her time doing - she was your main staff person the entire time you were there?

Kline:

The newsletter, in those days, was a big production. So, three things probably: the newsletter, the archives and running the operations. In addition to Joyce and me, there was another administrative person, and then we had these interns. So she was running that. This is before she went back to get her PhD. There’s a lot of work put into that newsletter, and I remember Ed Herold one time saying that he’d saved those newsletters mainly because Tom Higgins, at Wisconsin, who was a professor of electrical engineering, who did those bibliographies, continually sent in stuff. So there was that. There were book reviews in there. There were articles. So that was a major part of the effort. And also rather than us contracting out the layout and the production of that, she’d do all that production and layout too. It could have been contracted out, but she liked to do it. She wanted to do it. Actually, it saved us money.

Hochheiser:

Did the Center do much exhibit work while you were there?

Kline:

Well my memory is bad on this. There’s a sites exhibit that Joyce worked on, but I don’t know if that was about when I was leaving or when that was.

Hochheiser:

Well that’s okay. I will certainly ask Joyce.

Kline:

Ask Joyce.

Hochheiser:

But in any case, it was something -

Kline:

There was a sites exhibit that she worked on.

Hochheiser:

But that was more her work than yours?

Kline:

We did some things with other exhibits. So, for example, they finally established a Westinghouse Museum. There were a couple of other museums that we would give - oh, okay. I didn’t have the language to describe this, but my understanding of what we were doing, because we were so small, was there’s a lot of visits to places like the MIT Museum, visits to archives. This is what Joan Warnow would do. All the time she would be up at University Archives about people collecting archives - visit to archives. I remember going to AT&T. Marcy Goldstein - when she was first there, and discussing all of that. We would also give advice to some museums or people wanting to start museum exhibits. So there was a lot of that kind of networking.

Being a Staff Member, Engineer and Historian

Hochheiser:

And did you work closely with other parts of the IEEE staff?

Kline:

Yes.

Hochheiser:

Who, where, and what?

Kline:

With Eric Herz.

Hochheiser:

The executive director.

Kline:

I was a little naïve. I didn’t realize when I took the job that how much a part of the IEEE staff it was, because physically it was right down the hall. That building no longer exists. At one end of that hall was Eric Herz’s office, who was the executive director. Then at the other end, Woody Gannett’s office. And then there was an empty office for the president. There were about 500 people on the staff. There was that office at the IEEE. I think some other offices with publications were elsewhere in the city. I was a regular member of the staff, so I was attending staff meetings. So part of it was, as well, when there was something for the president of the IEEE to handle regarding history, I would handle it. Maybe this still goes on, right? And to me, it made me look at organizations differently too. That part of it was actually kind of fun. In fact, when I went to Cornell, I remember being in my office at Cornell and I had an old Kaypro computer and I was writing something. My friend and colleague came in and he said, “What are you doing?” I said “I’m writing a speech for the president of the IEEE to give at the dedication for the ENIAC ceremony.” He goes “What?” “Yeah,” I said “It’s kind of fun.” So I was sitting there writing the president’s speech, right? So there was that.

Also, there were these connections between TAB, Technical Activities Board, and Educational Activities Board but it’s mostly with the staff people. I don’t remember - until I was with [the] Society for the Social Implications of Technology - going to any of those meetings because then I was a volunteer. And also it was interesting to see this relationship between the staff and this huge gigantic volunteer organization. It’s still remarkable to me the way that place ran. Anyway, so there were big questions, quite frankly, after the centennial, on what the role of the History Center was. So the staff there had their ideas and the History Center had their ideas, and we kind of had our ideas from a professional disciplinary perspective. But Robert Friedel told me one thing that I think really, really helped. And he says, “Ron, well you’ve been in engineering. You’ve been around engineers. You know this is what I’ve learned here.” This is Robert speaking. He said, “What I learned is they respect professionalization in some other field. If they think it’s important, they respect that.” And that’s what we are. And that’s why I kept talking about the disciplinary-based history center. That, I found, completely, right? I mean sometimes there’s a little clash of cultures, but why shouldn’t there be?

Hochheiser:

Though since you were trained and spent years as a working engineer, I assume you had some insights into that culture.

Kline:

And it also helped too because oftentimes when I’d be introduced, they would say “Oh, here’s Ron,” - this is always the case - “he’s an engineer and a historian.” They would always say it like that. And, quite frankly, that was good.

Hochheiser:

And I think the same thing is true today for Mike Geselowitz. He’s got an EE degree.

Kline:

It helped when I went to Cornell too, to go, “Oh, he’s an engineer and an historian.”

Raising Funds, Moving the Center, Growth

Hochheiser:

Were there tensions between what the History Committee thought should be done, what staff thought should be done, what you thought should be done, or did these things integrate fairly smoothly?

Kline:

Well, yes, there were tensions. I think they integrated smoothly, but there were tensions. Like the History Committee would focus on – and it took me a while to actually realize that they could be integrated on saving records and working with the other groups of the IEEE and the milestones. So when I realized how that fit into the disciplinary-based history, then it seemed like one operation. And on staff, there was always the question about how it should be funded. Eric Herz had this long-term goal, and which he did achieve, to make it come under the IEEE Foundation and so forth. And quite frankly there were some tensions about funding, and I did not want to be a full-time fundraiser. It was that simple really.

Hochheiser:

So there was pressure on you to raise funds for the History Center?

Kline:

That was not my priority. I thought about this in the past. I think it would have moved to Rutgers in any event. You know, Robert left to go to an academic position and I left to go to an academic position, but there had been talk about moving the Center out of New York to a university before I’d left. So talk with Barney. Barney will know. In fact, there should be some reports.

Hochheiser:

Actually, one of the things I’m getting from Barney, besides an oral history, is that he has a collection of documents and reports.

Kline:

Good.

Hochheiser:

He’s kept copies of these things and he’s going to give them to us.

Kline:

I could be wrong, but I know there’s a study. Or I remember Eric Herz came in and he said “You’re leaving,” and he said, “Where are you going?” I said “Cornell.” He said, “Oh, okay, you’ve been called away,” which was true. I mean, if it had been a different position I probably would have stayed, quite frankly, but also, there was talk with Barney. I think there was talk about moving it to a university position and enlarging the staff a little bit. Then, they would have [made] the decision, because of that, to raise more money. I talked with Erwin Tomash about that, who was on the IEEE History Committee, and he said, “Well, if you want to really fulfill the mission of being a disciplinary-based history center, you have to grow.” That was clear too.

Hochheiser:

One thing I know that happened while you were there was the establishment of The Friends of the History Center as a fund raising vehicle.

Kline:

That’s right. I forgot all about that.

Hochheiser:

You have any recollections on [how it] came about?

Kline:

Yes, who did that? Harold Chestnut?

Hochheiser:

Could well be.

Kline:

One meeting I remember very clearly. We’re trying to decide the fate of the History Center, and we were asked to give a presentation to the IEEE Board of Directors. They were meeting in Philadelphia. Harold Chestnut and I went down - you know I love Harold Chestnut - and he said, “Okay, Ron, I’m going to give the broad vision of it, you give the workings of it and what we do, and then that will be it.” He did that. He was just amazing because he saw things very broadly and the importance of it in [a] very cultivated and technically well-respected guy, and a former president to the IEEE. And then I gave my spiel about the kind of stuff we’re talking about as well as what the History Center does, and a lot of the invisible stuff. And afterwards, people were coming up to us and saying, “What can we do to increase the size of the History Center?” I don’t know why we were asked to [do] it. I assume we were asked to do it to justify our existence somewhat. It’s what it sounded like to me. But afterwards - and thanks to Harold, the way he did that - people were saying, “Well what can we do to help?” So that was great. I don’t know what year that was. That was a big turning point, quite frankly. I don’t know if that was a helpful factor in establishing - I’m sure there are other factors in establishing the Center on this much more permanent basis, it was established. I hadn’t thought about that until you and I were having this conversation, if that was part of that or not. I just know it was important at that particular time.

Hochheiser:

And then in ’86, the chairmanship of the History Committee passed from Harold Chestnut to – I don’t know the first name – somebody named H.B. Hamilton?

Kline:

Yes, I know the name. I can hardly see the face, but I don’t remember much about that.

Hochheiser:

In that case, it’s fair to assume you didn’t get to know or work with him as closely.

Kline:

Not at all as with Harold. I mean Harold was in New York quite a bit, and I would go up to Schenectady. I would give talks at the Schenectady section up there. I was working on the Steinmetz stuff too. It was helpful. No, Harold was really involved. I’m sure things went well. I just don’t have much recollection about Hamilton.

Steinmetz Work, Cooper Union, Prizes

Hochheiser:

How did you integrate your own work on Steinmetz into the responsibilities as director of the History Center?

Kline:

I don’t know if Robert and I talked about this or not. So here’s what I came to the conclusion to do: Saturday. I went to the archives on Saturday. I went to the Annex of the New York Public Library on Saturday. That’s what I did. And I took advantage of some trips, quite frankly, and I would spend some time in the archives. So I would do stuff like getting to know the archivist, and I would do some of my own [work]. But I actually did try to separate. And that was an unclear situation. I think that’s one of the things they wanted to resolve too, and rightly so because it was unclear for me. And I remember one particular time. Now there was a lot of work I was doing to understand the history of electrical engineering better, which helped me understand the context for the Steinmetz work, but I was not going to work on the Steinmetz stuff in the Center. So I tried to make that a separation.

Hochheiser:

And similarly, you mentioned that you taught at Cooper Union?

Kline:

Oh yes. So Robert taught at Cooper Union on one night and he said, “Do you want to do this?” And I said, “Yes.” I tell my students this too. I said, “That’s when I started to read the classics.” I had not read Ruth Schwartz Cowan and I read it for those lectures, and I wrote my lectures on the subway at night on the way down. It’s all integrated, but I definitely wanted to keep it separate. Here’s the other thing - the networking part. Coming to SHOT meetings, here I’m an older student but I’m still a young kid, right? And I come to SHOT meetings and I’m Director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, and we have a fellowship. And so that actually formed a good network because a lot of people would come up to talk about the fellowship and we got to know people who were doing this work. That fellowship, it’s still given.

Hochheiser:

Yes, it is.

Kline:

And one of my former students has won it. I think Cyrus Mody won it, didn’t he? I think he won it. I think he did. I think he had because I remember when he got it I said, “Well, I had the second one.” I think that fellowship, quite frankly, is good. And again I think that’s the kind of invisible stuff with this networking, but it’s hard to present sometimes to the Board - it really is - but that’s a good way to talk about it because both engineers and historians can understand networks. So going to SHOT meetings, that network is important because of the fellowship.

Hochheiser:

Yes. It remains an important approach.

Kline:

Oh, then there’s the IEEE prize in Electrical Industry. So how did that come about? Oh, yes, the Life Members’ Prize in Electrical History.

Hochheiser:

That started while you were there?

Kline:

Yes. Things were different in SHOT then. I remember having lunch with Alex Roland who was I think the secretary, and he said, “This looks really narrow.” And I started talking about “What would it be about?” And I started talking about the kind of research people were doing in this area. He said, “Oh, this is a really broad area.” Okay. And there’s still some confusion on the prize. Like today, at an Executive Council Meeting, someone says, “Is that a prize to be a paper published in an IEEE journal?” I said, “No, any paper.” In fact, I think the person who won it this time - Ross Bassett - that paper could have won a major prize outside of Electrical History. It’s just a great paper. So, yes, there was a Life Members’ Prize in Electrical History - I think it was the first prize in SHOT that was devoted to a specific area. I could be wrong, but I think it’s true. I didn’t have to present it to the Board, to the Executive Council. I just presented it to Alex Roland and they approved it. Alex Roland told me something interesting too. He was the head of the NASA History Center or something like that. He said, “This is about networking, right? When you’re at that little node, there’s a good way to know.” To me, it’s good for the entire enterprise.

Eric Herz, Bylaws

Hochheiser:

How much contact did you have with Eric Herz?

Kline:

Quite a bit. I mean oftentimes it’s daily. He had a strong interest. Eric and I disagreed about some things, but he had a very strong interest in it. And he was right. He definitely wanted to move it toward being self-sustaining. And, look, if he wanted to get rid of something he wouldn’t want it to be self-sustaining; he’d just get rid of it. So it took me a while to figure that out, that he really was a benefactor of it. But he wanted to find a home for it. There’s another thing. I forgot about this. Somewhere we got the idea to - in the IEEE Constitution or Bylaws - to change them so that the History Center is mentioned in the Bylaws, I think, or the Constitution. I can’t remember that. It cannot be the Constitution. It must be the Bylaws.

Hochheiser:

Yes.

Kline:

I can remember that debate, and Eric looked at me and he says, “Are you trying to keep this going forever by it being mentioned in the Bylaws?” Fortunately, I learned a lot of things from Harold Chestnut, and he’s right. Then I said, “Look, this is good for IEEE in all of these different ways,” and Eric says “Okay.” I don’t know, maybe it’s been changed. Do you know if it still exists?

Hochheiser:

Whether it’s in the Bylaws?

Kline:

There’s something mentioned about the IEEE History Center in the Bylaws, by name.

Hochheiser:

I don’t know. I’ve never looked at the Bylaws.

Kline:

I guess the thing that I keep hearing is there’s this invisible kind of work.

Woody Gannett, Freedom at IEEE

Hochheiser:

To what extent, if at all, did you interact with the presidents of the IEEE?

Kline:

Not too much. Oh, yeah, you have to mention Woody Gannett.

Hochheiser:

My next question was if there were other staff members beyond Eric, so if you want to go on to Woody -

Kline:

He would have been the number one supporter. Such a kind man. He knew the way. He had been around the IEEE since World War II, right? He really understood how things were, and he was a big supporter, no question. And I thought very highly of him. He and Eric made a good pair, quite frankly. They really did make a good pair.

Hochheiser:

As you may or may not know, Eric is still very much around and active.

Kline:

Yes, great.

Hochheiser:

We hear from him periodically.

Kline:

Good. So they made a good pair.

Hochheiser:

Was there anything particularly unusual or distinctive about working as a staff member for a volunteer organization versus other sorts of places? You’ve worked in the corporate world. You’ve worked in the academic world.

Kline:

I thought there was more freedom there, actually, than in GE. I had a lot of freedom at GE, but I, quite frankly, thought there was a bit more freedom. Okay, there was both as well. There’s autonomy and responsibility too. But I never had been in a managerial position either when I worked at GE. I had not been in a managerial position. When we were in Scotland, and there were two of us engineers there, no one was the boss of each other. But here, there were some staff, and you were in a hierarchy. But there was a lot of autonomy. I’d go back again to what Robert Friedel said about that professionalization part.

Center's Evolution, IEEE History

Hochheiser:

In what ways, if any - we may probably already have touched on some of them - did the Center evolve or change over your three years there?

Kline:

Boy, it’s hard not to be whigish about this, because you know what happened, that it would move. And again, you’d definitely check to see if that was the case - but I think there was this growing sense about what Eric wanted it to do and what it should do. I think that was becoming clear that it needed to grow and it needed to be self-sustaining. And there was really no sense for it to be in New York City. Robert felt it was very important, and, quite frankly, there was a good reason to be down the hall, too, during the centennial and later, too, to be on staff. That’s about what I remember, but there was going to be some changes, I think, in the Center’s activities anyways because with a couple of projects completed, to do more oral history, I think there was going to be those kinds of changes, and definitely fundraising. Well, you could see fundraising would be a necessary part of it too.

Hochheiser:

But fundraising was something that you did not need to get involved in yourself?

Kline:

I don’t think so. I don’t remember going and asking anyone for money. Now the Friends Organization, I’m sure, did, but I can’t remember much of that anyway.

Hochheiser:

Can you think of anything that you wanted to do or accomplish while you were at the Center that you were not able to?

Kline:

So I think really just kind of growth in those. Again, the model I had was those disciplinary-based [centers] - Spencer Weart’s operation, right? I guess it would have been those areas that we were not doing too much of, but it would have been probably someone else doing the oral histories and the networking of the archival history collections and stuff. That’s what I recall.

Hochheiser:

Did you do much in the way of institutional history - that is, history of IEEE - or had that pretty much been covered in the books done for this intent?

Kline:

We weren’t writing, so again, this is why I go back to the Spencer Weart operation. I was mainly concerned about making sure that there were materials for other people to write the histories. That might have, looking at what Bill did, that would have been a logical step, and it was a logical step, but I don’t remember us discussing doing that kind of history.

Moving the Center, IEEE Spectrum

Hochheiser:

Do you recall any specific discussions? You mentioned briefly some discussion of moving the Center to a university. Do you recall any specific discussions involving Rutgers or did that occur after you left?

Kline:

I remember two reports, and there may only be one; one before it happened - or maybe there were just some discussions about it - and one afterwards. I think there may have been one after Robert left. And again, Barney will know. Barney Finn will know.

Hochheiser:

And the one thing with oral histories, why it’s good to ask multiple people.

Kline:

Also, I mean if Barney doesn’t have it, I can look through my files too and my correspondence.

Hochheiser:

And there could also well be a copy that is passed down to Mike. I don’t know. I know we’ve talked about the various reports done on the History Center over the years, though I’ve never taken the time to look for them.

Kline:

But you know the one I’ve talked to you about, Harold Chestnut and I going to the Board? Eric, I’m sure, will remember that. Are you going to interview Eric?

Hochheiser:

We keep trying. We’ve got one one hour interview and we keep trying for more. At the time, he agreed to more sessions, and we keep asking him again.

Kline:

So I don’t know what’s written, Sheldon, about that visit. I guess these are the values of the oral history. There’s stuff like this that’s not written down. There may be one line.

Hochheiser:

Yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s why one does what we do.

Kline:

I can see that room with Harold and I in there.

Hochheiser:

Can you think of anything about your three years [t]hat I neglected to ask you?

Kline:

Yes. So when I got this opportunity to go to Cornell, I think the fact that it was Cornell helped. I know it helped Eric understand. This has happened twice in a row. So that helped Eric understand that quite a bit. Oh, yeah, there’s another. You asked about parts of the IEEE. IEEE Spectrum. Holy cow, how can I forget this? So Donald Christensen - I mean the whole IEEE Spectrum staff, which is a huge floor, it’s like one floor up, or maybe two - and Don Christensen, amazing, had a huge interest in the history. So when I was there, he asked me to write some stuff. This is interesting. I wrote two articles for him, or maybe it was three, for the IEEE Spectrum. I didn’t see it as part of my work; I guess you can call it part of the work of the IEEE Center, you should. But anyway, Trudy Bell was there. Those folks are amazing. And there’s a reason that that magazine won the National Magazine Award when Christensen was its head. So that was a good connection. It was quite a good connection. And that was one of the values of having that small office in that building. There’s disadvantages and some advantages.

Hochheiser:

Anything else that you can think of [from] these three years that I neglected to ask you about?

Kline:

No.

Cornell, SSIT

Hochheiser:

How did the opportunity to go to Cornell come about?

Kline:

I got a letter from the search committee asking if I would recommend someone for the job at Cornell.

Hochheiser:

And you decided to recommend yourself.

Kline:

I did.

Hochheiser:

Why was Cornell particularly attractive to you?

Kline:

Well it was an Ivy League school, and also the job was in an engineering school, doing the history of technology, and with the graduate program. It was great. It was the three months free in the summer so I could finish my research. That was the main thing. It’s kind of hard; it was going around [unintelligible word] slowly on Saturdays, right? But that was the main thing. But, quite frankly, it was because I was the Director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering that these electrical engineering professors thought, “Oh, we should ask that person to recommend someone.” So there’s a direct tie there.

Hochheiser:

Interesting. Now after you went to Cornell, you got involved in IEEE as a volunteer at SSIT.

Kline:

Right.

Hochheiser:

Can you tell me a little bit about how that came about?

Kline:

Yes, let me see. So Professor Terry Fine, in electrical engineering, who was on the search committee for the history position - it was a college-wide search committee which had someone from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science. I think Bill Aspray and I were both candidates for that job. So when I was selected, I was put in electrical engineering because that’s what I studied, the history of electrical engineering. Professor Terry Fine was president of the Society - PGIT - Professional Group on Information Theory - it was still a professional group then - they were very proud of that fact. So he was president of that group, and he says, “I get to appoint someone as a member of the board to attend governing board meetings of SSIT. This looks like something you might be interested in doing.” So I said, “Sure.” So I went down. I knew about the Society and I knew about Steve Unger. I never had met him. The meetings were in New York always. They were at Columbia. It was an easy trip. I went down and I got to know that group, and what came first? I guess the presidency or vice presidency, is that right? I’d have to look at my vitae to see whether I was president first or editor. I think I was president. I can’t remember.

Hochheiser:

That’s correct, president first.

Kline:

So I got to know that group, and I had a lot in common with that group. I studied them a little bit and I was interested because of the work on Steinmetz and ethics and social responsibility and all of that. It was great. Quite frankly, the experience of being a staff member helped a lot even though I had not been a staff member with the Technical Activities Board, but still I had the basic understanding of the structure of the Society.

Hochheiser:

What did you do as president?

Kline:

The main thing was a defense of SSIT. There were some questions about it and so Christine Nielson, she was terrific, both of us went up. She must have been president and I was vice president. And we went and did that. We also made sure the Journal was in good shape. I remember that was good. There was a transition in SSIT between - there was an activist element, definitely, in SSIT, no question about it. That group was always there. But there was another group that wanted to professionalize it more, and there were some tensions there. So I think I was kind of a bridge - looking back on it - to help resolve those tensions there. Joe Herkert, who got involved with this, was the one who could really help push what SSIT wanted to do through technical activities - not push it through, but help in the negotiations with the Technical Activities Board. So that was basically it. I, quite frankly, enjoyed being an editor a lot more.

Hochheiser:

Yes, I would too.

Kline:

Yeah, I enjoyed that a lot more. But it did come later.

Hochheiser:

Anything in particular you’d like to comment on being editor?

Kline:

One thing that I think was good about being the editor of this journal is that you get to comment on referee reports. For that journal, you could actually say to an author, “I think it’s good that you pay particular attention to this referee and if you want to address the other referee report,” because they’re often conflicting. Actually, I liked that position because you really saw a lot of interesting stuff and also got a chance to shape the field a bit, but it was a lot of work. And the managing editor there - it’s Terri Bookman who’s still managing editor - she’s just amazing. She’s just remarkable. So, yes, I enjoyed that more than being president. Being president was good, but, in fact, I enjoyed the editorship a lot more.

Hochheiser:

Have you remained involved with IEEE at all since you concluded your editorship?

Kline:

I used to go to meetings for a long period of time after -

Hochheiser:

SSIT?

Kline:

SSIT. I was editor probably in the nineties, sometime, ’95 or so. So I think I went to SSIT meetings, when they were still held in New York City, for at least five or six years afterwards. I’m still a member of the Publications Committee for SSIT, but that organization’s in good hands. So every once in a while, if there’s a little crisis or something, I’ll weigh in.

IEEE in Career

Hochheiser:

In what other ways has your IEEE involvement in either a staff or volunteering [position] formed your career?

Kline:

Well, it helps a lot over in the engineering college. So when people wonder why there’s a historian over in the engineering college, the fact that I was involved with the IEEE - I was Director of this Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, I was President of the SSIT, editor for the journal - helped, and I run the Bovay Program in History and Ethics of Engineering over there. They say, “Well, okay, so this is part of engineering.” I think it helps with the scholarship too. I understand organizations a lot better than I ever had before IEEE. But anyway, I think it’s been what Harold Chestnut would say: It’s been a very symbiotic kind of relationship in a very positive way, I’d say.

Hochheiser:

Anything else you’d like to add?

Kline:

No, no.

Hochheiser:

In that case, I’d say we’re done.

Kline:

Great. Good.