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Oral-History:Simon Ramo

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About Simon Ramo

Simon Ramo grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah in the 1910s and 1920s. His parents had both emigrated from Eastern Europe, and his father owned a store in Utah. In 1929, Ramo won a music scholarship to the University of Utah, where he majored in engineering. Unavailability of jobs persuaded him to pursue post-graduate studies at Caltech, where he won a scholarship. He finished his degree in three years, writing a thesis on accurate measurements of high voltage. In 1936, he took a job at General Electric in Schenectady, NY to work in the new field of microwaves, first in the engineering lab and then in the GE research lab. While at GE he taught a series of courses on electricity and magnetism theory. Out of these lectures came his textbook, Fields and Waves, now in its fifth edition. During the war, he worked on radar. After the war, he moved to Hughes Aircraft where he worked on guided missile systems.

The interview begins with a discussion of the need for managers to have some technical knowledge. Then it shifts to a description of Ramo's childhood in Utah, his family's recent background in Eastern Europe and distant background in Spain. Ramo then turns to his undergraduate education in music and engineering at the University of Utah during the depression and his subsequent post-graduate work at Caltech. He describes faculty and courses there as well as his own doctoral work on accurate measurement of high voltage. He then moves on to his work in the new field of microwaves at GE and explains that during the war he, along with many others, turned his knowledge to developing radar. He discusses his move west to Hughes Aircraft to work on guided missile systems. He explains the origins of his textbook, Fields and Waves, now in its fifth edition. He describes his involvement with AIEE, IRE, and IEEE. The interview concludes with his thoughts on the proper role of the IEEE and the need for engineers to understand the relationship between science and society.

About the Interview

SIMON RAMO:An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 27 February 1995

Interview #244 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 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:
Simon Ramo, Electrical Engineer, an oral history conducted in 1996 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.