IEEE Philadelphia Section History
A Brief History of the IEEE Philadelphia Section
Foreword from “100 Years with the IEEE in the Delaware Valley” Philadelphia Section Publication 1984
“The Philadelphia Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Incorporated (IEEE) presents this history of the electro-technical related accomplishments by individuals and companies in the Delaware Valley during the last 100 years in tribute to the founding of IEEE. It is hoped that the collection of articles will prove to be both interesting and informative for the nontechnical reader as well as the members of the Philadelphia Section. If by reading this document, the reader’s appreciation of the tremendous impact of engineering on his or her welfare, comfort, and security is enhanced, the Philadelphia Section will feel well rewarded.
Two introductory articles documents the history of the IEEE and the role played by the Franklin Institute in stimulating the founding of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), which later merged with the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) to for the IEEE. The remaining articles have been grouped into arbitrarily broad divisions of electro-technology: Communications/Entertainment and Broadcast, power and industrial Applications, Rail Transportation, Medical Application, Computers, and Aerospace/Military. The reader will note that achievements by companies as opposed to those by individuals may extend across many or all of the divisions. To properly record the contributions of those individuals whose ideas sparked the developments described and those whose leadership brought forth and many marvelous technical accomplishments we take so much for granted today, would be worthy od several years of effort by a professional historians.
Formal history of the Philadelphia Section (or Branch, as it was then called) of the AIEE began on February 18, 1903. Dr. Carl Hering, the first Chairman, also went on to secure as president of the national AIEE and as a delegate of the U.S. Government to the Universal Exposition of 1889 held in Paris, France. The First regular meetings were help in the meeting room of the Engineer’s Club in Philadelphia, then 1122 Girad Street.
The Philadelphia Section of the IRE was recognized in the IRE Proceeding, December, 1925. Mr. Stuart Ballantine was the first Chairman.
It is noteworthy that the Philadelphia Section of the AIEE gave birth to the following offspring: the Delaware Bay Section (1953) – territory, State of Delaware and Salem County, New Jersey; the Southern New Jersey Section (1963) – territory, Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland Counties; and the Princeton-Trenton Division (1961-62). This division included a subsection of the IRE organized by T. H. Story in 1945.
The Philadelphia Section of the IRE was originally assigned the geographical areas covered by Philadelphia, Camden, and Atlantic City. Later this was expanded to include all of Southern New Jersey and the counties in Southeastern Pennsylvannia as far west as Adams, Dauphin, and Perry. Subsections that spun off from the Philadelphia Section include Princeton (1945), Lancaster (1947), Lehigh Valley (1957), and Reading (1959). As noted the Princeton Subsection merged with the AIEE. However, the remaining subsections did not obtain their independence until the time of the merger of AIEE and IRE in 1963. At that time, the Princeton Subsection became an independent section.
Events leading up to the merger of the AIEE and the IRE are described in the “Capsule History of the IEEE.” The role played by the Franklin Institute as sponsor of the International Electrical Exhibition, 1884, and the National Conference of Electricians, must not be overlooked. These events emphasized the need for a national organization ro represent the “practical men” such as Elihu Thompson, Edwin Houston, and Thomas Edison, and stimulated the founding of the AIEE.
On behalf of the Philadelphia Section, the Editor apologizes to those individuals or companies that may have been inadvertently omitted from this current history of significant electro-technical accomplishments with the Philadelphia Section of the IEEE. It is especially noted that the history of technical achievements in local RCA plants did not end in 1976. However, the outstanding accomplishments by this extraordinary company remain to be chronicled by some future historian.
The Section sincerely appreciates the time and effort freely given by all those who made this document possible. Specifically, the members of the Committee for the publication of this document are recognized here: G. W. Gordan (SAM’50), K. A. Fegley (F’57), W.W. Middleton (SM’61), K.A. Ringo (SM’56), A.L. Smith (M’77), and S. R. Warren (F’53).” - John C. Bry, Jr. (SM’77) Senior Member of the Engineering Staff, RCA Naval Systems Department, Moorestown, NJ. February, 1984.
"A Capsule History of the IEEE”
This document was orginally printed in “100 Years with the IEEE in the Delaware Valley” Philadelphia Section Publication 1984.
"In 1984, the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) will be celebrating an important milestone – its hundredth anniversary. As the centennial approaches, the institute’s members can look back on a century of outstanding progress and achievements and con count as colleagues, past and present, the giants of electrical technology. Thanks to the contributions of these and others, contemporary society is, in part, the product of electrical engineering. Indeed, the history of the IEEE and its predecessors, the AIEE and the IRE is part of the record of the impact o electrical science and technology on the shaping of the twentieth century.
The AIEE was born during a period of optimism and enthusiasm. By 1884, applications for electricity were rapidly increasing, progress in electrical theory and practice was accelerating, and scientists and electricians, as well as entrepreneurs and investors, saw only greater growth ahead. With such growth, electrical technology was becoming more and more complex and practitioners began to feel the need for a national forum to exchange ideas and experiences and an organization to define a new profession.
In the spring 1984, a call was issued for a meeting to form a national electrical society, and after some preliminary gatherings, the AIEE was established in New York City on May 13. Impetus had been given to the new organization by the planning for an International Electrical Exhibition to be help by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia later that year and the AIEE quickly gained recognition as a spokesperson for American electrical engineers.
From the beginning, wire communications and light and power systems were the major interests of the AIEE. An early and active participant in the development of standards for the electrical industry, the institute laid the foundations for all work on electrical standards done in the United States. During the first three decades of its existence, the AIEE confronted and resolved such internal concerns as locating permanent headquarters for the organization; providing mechanisms for contact with a far-flung membership and with students; and fostering new technical interested through committees that were established to meet the challenge of increasing specialization.
By 1912, however, the interests and needs of those specializing in the expanding field of radio could no longer be satisfied by a technical committee meeting two or three times a years. In that year, two large local radio organizations – The Society of the Wireless Telegraph Engineers and the Wireless Institute – merged to form a national society for the scientists and engineers involved in the development of wireless communications – the IRE. Many of the original members of the AIEE and both organization continued to have members in common until they merged in form the IEEE in 1963.
The structural development and general activities of the IRE were similar to those of the AIEE. Specialized segments were gathered into professional groups under a central governing body; geographical units and student branches were formed; the creation of extensive literature and the exchange of knowledge was facilitated through meetings and publications; membership grades were established and standards became a major concern.
The nature of radio technology meant that the interests of the IRE went beyond national boundaries. Therefore, the new organization sought and attracted members from many countries and eventually established units in several areas throughout the world.
In the 1930’s, the word “electronics” became part of the vocabulary of electrical engineering. Electronics engineers tended to be come members of the IRE, but the applications of electron tube technology became so extensive that the technical boundaries differentiating the IRE and the AIEE became difficult to distinguish. After World War II, the two organizations became increasingly competitive. Problems of overlap and duplication od efforts arose, only partially resolved by joint committees and meetings.
Finally, in 1961, the leadership of both the IRE and the AIEE resolved to seek and end to these difficulties through consolidation. The next year a merger plan was formulated and approved and became effective on January 1, 1963. Plans were made for me
Almost two decades have passed since the formation of the IEEE. Today the Institute is than largest professional association in the world with over 200,000 members (as of 1984), and its activities now extend far more widely than its forefathers could have ever foreseen. It remains, however, jut as almost a century ago, the premier spokesman for the most significant and exciting technological field of its time."