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IEEE Ithaca Section History

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Section History

The Ithaca Section started as a Branch of AIEE at Cornell University, on October 15, 1902, and became an Aiee Section when the Institute changed the designation from Branch to Section in 1907. In 1909 a Student Branch of AIEE was formed at Cornell. AIEE formed a Geographical District Executive Committee, which first appeared in our Regional Archives in 1930. The archives are not available prior to 1904, therefore officers for 1904 are provided and were: Harris J. Ryan, Chairman; and George S. Macomber, Secretary. Starting in 1938 the archives show Ithaca had 47 members, which increased to 158 in 1949, the last year data was available. In 1947 Binghamton was made a Sub-Section of Ithaca.

This Committee had 10 Districts, and District 1 and 3 comprised about the same area as our IEEE Region 1. Each of the Districts had three executive officers: Chair, which was also a Vice-President of AIEE; a District Secretary; and a Chair of the District Committee on Student Activities. Ithaca Section members were active in the District, and provided Chairs to the Committee on Student Activities.

Starting in 1938 the archives show Section membership, and Ithaca had 47 members that year. the membership grew to 158 in 1949, the last year information was provided. In 1947 Binghamton was organized as a Sub-Section of Ithaca.

Ithaca was also active in the IRE, and a Sub-Section of the Syracuse section was formed in 1953. They reached full Section level in 1954.

When the Ithaca Section of the AIEE celebrated it 50th anniversary in May 1952, it was a vigorous organization that consisted of members from the New York cities of Ithaca, Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, Endicott, Montour Falls, and Towanda, Pennsylvania. Regular monthly meetings were held throughout the Cornell University academic year in Ithaca, Binghamton, Elmira, and Corning in turn. Meetings were usually held on Friday evenings with a dinner followed by a short business meeting and an interesting talk by a specialist on some topic of current interest. On frequent occaisions, members of the Ithaca Section IRE would have a joint meeting with the AIEE group. Total membership of the Section was about 250. Although a Subsection had been established in Binghamton in 1947 menbers of the subsection continued to participate in Ithaca Section Activites

This pattern of section activity was maintained for the next ten years. During this period the meetings featured many highly interesting topics including a deimonstration of the first Xerox machine, a chess competition between members and the latest IBM computer, presentation of a new ceramic developed by Corning Glass that had the potential for satellite nose-cone material and was already being used for kitchenware (each member received a sample dish) a discussion of plans for the U.S. space-rocket program (before Sputnik) an early description of the Cornell radar telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico and many others.

In the summer of 1961, the Ithaca Section hosted the annual AIEE Summer Meeting in Ithaca. The entire Cornell electrical engineering faculty together with many members of the Section from organizations in the other cities, cooperated in the planning and execution of this major task. some 1500 attendees were on campus for five days, the weather was happily pleasant, and all participant agreed it had been a highly successful event. During the meeting a special committee of AIEE and IRE members began planning the combination of the two societies into the oranization that became the IEEE in 1963.

In subsequent years, the Binghamton subsection became a separate full section of the IEEE to serve the Triple Cities, the membership of the Ithaca Section was confined to the faculty of university and residents of the Ithaca area, and most of the Section activities were combined with those of the active IEEE Student Branch. The chairman of the Section usually serves as the faculty advisor for the Student Branch in addition to his other duties.

Formal meetings of the Section are generally limited to election of Section officers, and one or more technical lectures are directly sponsored by the Section during the academic year. The reduced individual activity of the Ithaca Section in recent years is due principally to the greatly expanded emphasis on research, compared with that of earlier years, and the wide variety of other campus organizations and activities that claim the attention of members of the Cornell faculty. there is no dearth of interest in IEEE, however, as evidenced by the large number of papers that have been publised in IEEE jounals by members of the Ithaca Section, many of whom have become widely-known leaders in the establishment of major new programs and laboratories in such varied fields as optoelectronics, digital-system processng, control theory, computer engineering, semiconductor materials and technology, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), plasma studies, digital protective power relays, space plasma physics, information theory, electronic packaging, wireless communication systems, and nanotechnology.

The Arecibo Radio and Radar Observatory in Puerto Rico, the Cornell Nanofabrication Center, the Cornell Theory Center, the Power Systems Engineering Research Center, and the Plasma Studies Laboratory, are among the highly successful research groups that have been conceived and initiated by members of the Ithaca Section. Through the years, many Section members have served on national IEEE committees, have been editors of major IEEE publications, and have chaired innumerable IEEE converences. Several have recieved prize paper awards.

The Ithaca Section has a long history of involvement with ongoing technical events in the School. For example, the regular EE/ECE Collopuium (established in 1945) is held on Tuesday afternoons throughout the academic year and occasionally doubles as an Ithaca Section activity. The colloquium, which often features distinguished speakers from industy and government agencies on emerging technologies, is normally held for faculty members and their graduate students. On occasion a visitor of special interest to the local engineering community is co-sponsored by the Ithaca Section and the membership is notified of the meeting.

Archival Documents

IEEE Geographic Unit Organizing Document

Year Chair Secretary
1907-1908 E.L. Nichols H.H. Norris
1909 E.L. Nichols B.C. Dennison
1910 E.L. Nichols George S. Macomber