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Oral-History:Jean Lebel

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About Jean Lebel

Martin Bastiaans, Tony Davies, and Jean Lebel.
Martin Bastiaans, Tony Davies, and Jean Lebel.

Jean Lebel majored in Radio Engineering at École Supérieure d'Électricité in France in the late 1940s. After graduating from that institution he went on to get a Master’s Degree at Harvard in Applied Physics. He then moved first to MIT he held research positions at the Servomechanism and Acoustic Laboratories, and then to the Schlumberger Well-Surveying Corporation. After he returned to Europe around 1959 his work focused on developing devices to detect and locate nuclear explosions.

Lebel began his relationship with IEEE (or more properly, its predecessor IRE) as a student at École Supérieure d'Électricité in France and read the publication, Proceedings of IRE. After returning to Europe, he continued to develop IRE’s presence in Europe. He helped in the founding of the French and Switzerland Sections in 1961 and 1960 respectively. After the the IRE made the transition to IEEE, he served as the Region 8 Director from 1965-1966. In this role he traveled to all the sections and started the participation of Region 8 in the Student Paper Contest.


About the Interview

JEAN LEBEL: An interview conducted by Anthony C. Davies with assistance from Martin Bastiaans on behalf of the IEEE History Center, September 6, 2012.

Interview #639 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, 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:

Jean Lebel an oral history conducted in 2012 by Anthony C. Davies with assistance from Martin Bastiaans on the behalf of the IEEE History Center, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

INTERVIEW: Jean Lebel
INTERVIEWER:Anthony C. Davies with assistance from Martin Bastiaans
DATE: September 6, 2012
PLACE: Hotel Moderno, Pavia, Italy


(Numbered explanatory footnotes [x] added after the interview for clarity)


Davies:

Well, maybe I can start by saying, for this interview I will be asking most of the questions. I am Tony Davies. I was once a Regional Director and I am also operating the recording equipment.

Bastiaans:

OK. I’m Martin Bastiaans. I’m presently the Region 8 Director Elect and I’m very happy to witness this oral history interview which I hope will be one in a series of many.

Davies:

And of course to ask some questions if you wish.

Bastiaans:

If there’s anything to ask, yes. Thank you.

Lebel:

I am Jean Lebel. I was the second IEEE European Director. During my talk tomorrow I will tell what I did when I was a Director of the [IEEE European] Region, in the various countries and with the various Presidents who came during my time of office. And on business, you will ask me a question or I will develop something, as you prefer.

Early Career as an Engineer

Davies:

Well maybe to ask, how did you come to join either IEEE or its predecessor before you became active as a volunteer? How did you join? Where did you join? What was it that brought you into this organisation?

Lebel:

Well, as a student of radio engineering at École Supérieure d'Électricité in France, I was very pleased to get the possibility of reading the Proceedings of IRE. That was probably around 1949 or 1950, a very long time ago. And it made me realise that IRE was something which existed, of course, otherwise I would not have known it. It was mostly the work on the synchronisation of oscillators which was of my interest and the papers which I found in an institution called Le Matériel Téléphonique, LMT [1]. They had a library at Avenue de Breteuil and I was spending some afternoon there since it was not very far from where I was living. I was young (about 21) and I had married a year before. OK. That’s for the beginning of my interest in IRE and, of course, a few years after, I went to get my Masters Degree from Harvard in Applied Physics. I moved to MIT, invited by Dr. Gordon Brown who was Director of the Electrical Engineering Department. I worked at two places. The Servomechanism Laboratory first, and then the Acoustic Laboratory. At the same time, I took courses on Servomechanisms with Professor Cambell. He was quite helpful. I was offered to continue my work toward a PhD but I had been married three or four years and I thought it was time to get involved in practical work. So I looked for jobs. One was offered at Raytheon company, on microwave probably, and also a job in a family company, the Schlumberger Well-Surveying Corporation. My wife didn’t want me to go to that place for family reasons. But I thought that was very interesting for me to go over there. That’s how I became Applied Physicist during the years 50s to 60s, until we left the United States. There, I worked on a drilling sonde for a measurement of electrical conductivity around a bore hole and most of my work was concerned with digitalisation of the signal down the hole. Oh, we used very funny things which I never had – magnetic amplifiers for that. I never saw magnetic amplifiers any more afterward. And also I made some computer investigations of signal of the induction logging, a device which had been invented by Henri Georges Doll. It measured the electrical conductivity around the bore hole by using one coil transmitting a current around 20 kilohertz which, in turn, is developing what we call Courants de Foucault [2]. Those are received by a second coil. The coupling between the two coils must be as loose as possible but it still gives a signal many times bigger than the signal of the Courants de Foucault but they are shifted 90°. Hence the signal from the Courants de Foucault.is shifted 180°. So the phase detector was very, very helpful in that particular case. I also made an investigation. I did theoretical investigations with a computer of the signal coming from the bore hole. I wrote the equations and I was sending what I wanted to Houston, Texas by mail, not by email. It was in the ‘50s. And the week after, I got the results and I got my work. That was around 1959 before we left the United States..

[1]: Company LMT founded 1889, controlled by ITT from 1925, and now absorbed into Thompson CSF. (Davies)

[2]: in English, usually called Eddy Currents. (Davies)

Davies:

When you came back to Europe, were you still with Schlumberger because they were active in electrical well loging or you changed ?

Lebel:

No. The people in France didn’t want someone of the family to come to work with them. It was Jean Riboud, a guy of very good reputation who had been deported in Buchenwald or something like that during the war. But he preferred to pull out of the corporation two persons, Seydoux and myself. And so I had to find a new job. Well, I wanted to see the people at CSF. During my stay in the United States, some people from France had come and I had kept contact with them, namely people from the CSF company (Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie sans fil). They offered me a job on a special type of analog computer since I had been working on them before in the States. It was a special type of analogue computer where the signal was transmitted over a carrier at high frequency. It didn’t look very interesting to me so I went to see, by recollection, Professor Yves Rocard at the École Normale Supérieure. He told me, I remember, "I could offer you a lot of jobs, but I just got a contract from Advanced Research Project Agency on which you could, maybe, owing to your background in the United States, help me". Well, I thought it might be interesting and I did some work for him and we were mostly, for that contract with ARPA, investigating the detection of nuclear explosions. There were some difficulties around the world and we wanted to try to find out exactly who had made an explosion. At the time it was mostly the United States.

Building the IRE in Europe

Davies:

So, when, from this work, were you in contact with members of IRE or how? Did you just read the journals at that stage?

Lebel:

It’s about the same time that I started the French Section and the European Region of IRE with people like Ir Rinia, Bruce Barrow, Whose names Bastiaans reminded me a few minutes ago. I think I will try to come to Madrid to see him again.

Bastiaans:

Please do!

Lebel:

But you say that he is in the Netherlands now?

Bastiaans:

No. No. He’s in Washington.

Lebel:

He is in Washington.

Bastiaans:

But he travels around a lot. He was very recently in the UK, by the way.

Davies:

OK. So you were meeting those kinds of people that wanted to set up the IEEE activity in Europe , or IRE?

Lebel:

At the same time, yes. They were not particularly helpful in my professional work if you want.

Davies:

Yes.

Lebel:

It has always been, for me, the two side by side, the professional work and the …..

Davies:

Volunteer work.

Lebel:

Mmm?

Davies:

Volunteer work.

Lebel:

And the volunteer work. Exactly, Tony

Davies:

So you had a wish to make a France Section from yourself?

Lebel:

Absolutely.

Davies:

Your wish, as it were.

Lebel:

And of course, I did contact Aubert and the Père Viellard who I had known in the United States to contact, a certain Goudet (who has since passed away) and we decided that, at the time, I was still in Switzerland because I was in Switzerland from 1960, 1961. And I was encouraged, very much, by Ronald McFarlan who I had known before, to,

1: Start the Swiss Section,

2: Since you are a double national Swiss and French, when you go back to France, start a French Section .The French Section was done with the help of Georges Goudet and from my home, at the time in Switzerland. Goudet sent me the list of the French Society, which was Société Française des électriciens et des électroniciens [3]. Then I had the list of IRE members living in France. I collation the two of them, personally, with no computer. And we decided, Goudet and I, to organise a meeting where about 40 or 50 people came to a party which was held, because I had no home in France, at my folks. And well, when we decided to start the French Section and after that we had Ronald McFarlan come and organise the French Section with the Société Française des Électriciens. It was decided that this Section could be started but that our meetings should always be in English. It was one way to avoid competition between the French Society and the French Section. And on the other hand, it was also a way to invite speakers not speaking French. That is still working today.

[3] Name changed to add “..et des électroniciens” in 1985 (Davies)

Davies:

Did you have a vision of looking into the future, there would be many, many Sections or you were just thinking of France and Switzerland at this point?

Lebel:

At the time, the IRE, the Region or IRE or IEEE Region, that had not yet been born. And I discovered the other Sections after I was elected Region 8 Director which was a few years after. So I don’t think I thought very much of Italy. Martin told me that the UK had no Section at the time.

Bastiaans:

At that time, no.

Lebel:

It had no Section. I didn’t even realise it. You know, another organisation of which I am part, Rotary Club, we know that the French Rotary had been started by the British Rotary in 1923 or something like that. Is that what the French Section was not started by the UK Section for the good reason that it was not existing. OK, now where was I?

Original Officers of the French Section

Bastiaans:

When the French Section was founded, you were the first Chair or any other officer?

Lebel:

No. No. No. No.

Bastiaans:

You didn’t have an official position?

Lebel:

Goudet, maybe Goudet thought that I was too young. It does not matter. But we had one American who was living in Paris since a few years before. It was named Pernice and Goudet, who was really managing the whole thing, thought that Pernice, as an American, should be the best first President [4]. And I don’t know if I was Vice-Chairman or Secretary. Probably, from my past experience with the Connecticut Section, where I was successively Programme Chairman, Secretary, Vice-Chairman and Chairman, which made me easy under the impulse of Ronald McFarlan, to start a Sub-section of the Connecticut Section, just before we left the United States, my family and I.. But I knew that the Secretary is the most important person to do something in a Section. So, I was …..

[4] Here, ‘President’ really means ‘Section Chair’ (Davies)

Davies:

So this experience was very important …

Lebel:

… very happy to accept to be Secretary. And, of course, I was made, the year after, they named me Vice-President. I was not getting along very well with Pernice. I resented that, having been living in Paris for about ten years, he didn’t speak a word of French. (laughter)

Progression of Engineering Career

Lebel:

That was a little bit exaggerated! And so I ended up around ‘63 or ‘64, as Chairman of the French Section. It’s about that time that (I guess it’s Bruce) who called me one day, telling me,"Jean, with this merger of AIEE and IRE, our project for a Region of IRE or IEEE is very risked to be compromised". And I say to him, it was probably Bruce but I would like to talk it over with him, I told him (I was Chairman of the French Section at the time), “You have the whole support of the French Section to create the Region Eight Section.” [5] They had all the support of the Swiss Section. Well, it worked out. At the same time, I was looking at seismographs to detect … very small seismograph of that size that you could really have in a suitcase and put at a place where we wanted to record the signals from a nuclear explosion which have a very different shape from an earthquake. The earthquake is the succession of places where there are things which separate them whereas the nuclear explosion is contoured and the signal which one and the other signs, of course, is quite different when it arrives. I also worked a little bit but not very much, on detection of nuclear explosions in the air. That was rather funny because when we had a microbarograph recording the signal of a nuclear explosion and I even had a recording of an underground explosion of the fifteen megaton, Soviet section explosion at the bottom of a building, in Houston, Texas, in the middle of the traffic and everything. That went around the globe many times. So, when we learned by the radio that there had been an explosion, air explosion, by opposition to underground, we had plenty of time to turn on the microbarograph until the signal arrived in Paris. Well, so far for the work with Professor Rocard, except that he wanted to become member of the Science Academy [6] but he was also, how do you call that, the people who detect water underground?

[5] Really means the Region (e.g. Region 8, which at that time actually became at first Region 9 (Davies)

[6] The French Académie des Sciences (Davies)

Davies:

Water divining…water divining … with a stick.

Lebel:

Of course, I could not believe a word of that.

Lebel:

And so, with a friend of mine, a schoolmate, one afternoon, I built a big loop. Professor Rocard thought it was a problem of magnetic field due to the water ….

Lebel:

…. circulating underground. So although I went with a loop of about a metric metre by two metres, made in turns, a good friend who was putting the juice through the loop or not, and I went through with that. I was …I would tell him, “You have put the juice, right? You have put the juice?” “No.” And the result was 50/50 of course.

Lebel:

And the next morning, when Rocard, the boss, the patron, comme on l’appellait, arrived to the office, I told him what I had done. “Jean, if you work like this, you will kill my ideas.” (laughter). Rocard was a very, very smart person. OK. Then I started by my office with one graduate from MIT and of École des Arts et Metiers in Paris, as the Director of Research. And I began to get a contract, first, with Professor Rocard but it there was not enough money so I looked at other contracts. One of the first then which I was very happy about was the survey of very high frequency omni-range (VOR), which is a mean of navigation, aircraft navigation. And since I was a pilot, I was using it. And the contract was to survey the whole France, during one day. And there were probably, at the time, 20 or 30 VOR, very high frequency omni-range. We knew exactly the position of the aircraft, I don’t remember how. And we knew what the aircraft was receiving and we could bring the results to the administration who gave us the contract. We worked with, also, the European Space Research organisation for the synchronisation of various stations around the world and we worked with time signals to that effect. And another thing was a tower in Kiruna approximately on the north circle where they were sending missiles I don’t know in English. But it does not matter. The problem with them is that there were strong winds during the first 100 metres. And we equipped a tower with directional devices who was also measuring the intensity. On that occasion with Gouyet, my Director of Research and we took a Patent on phase lock loop, phase lock loop oscillators. Later on I published something in Norway and Switzerland, all that was more or less the period from 1960 to 1972, where I decided since we were almost losing some money to stop that business.

Davies:

How did this work relate to your activities with IEEE? Were they supporting or independent?

Lebel:

Completely independent.

Davies:

OK. So the IEEE work didn’t interfere with your research job.

Lebel:

When some members of the French Section came to me and asked me, “I want to organise a big meeting for such and such subject, could the Section help me. Then I turned to the Chairman of the Section. He and I helped the guy. I remember a funny detail. We had a Congress and the people who’d paid, at the place of the Congress itself, paid their fees. But then we collected a great amount of cash. So I had to organise the transfer in a cell truck from there. Small details of that nature. Plus making very good friends.

Davies:

Yes.

Bastiaans:

So it McFarlan who made you enthusiastic for IEEE, in Connecticut? It was Dr McFarlan who made you enthusiastic for IEEE? Or IRE at that time? In Connecticut?

Lebel:

Sure. Sure.

Returning and Consolidating the IEEE Presence in Europe

Bastiaans:

Then you returned to Switzerland?

Lebel:

Yes.

Bastiaans:

And did you play a role in founding the Switzerland Section, by that time called Geneva Section?

Lebel:

Yes. Bien sure.

Bastiaans:

So you were one of the founding persons there?

Lebel:

Oh certainly.

Bastiaans:

And then you..?

Lebel:

With John Gayer

Bastiaans:

John Gayer?

Lebel:

John Gayer. John and I had experienced two years before the same drama of losing a child.

Bastiaans:

Mmm

Lebel:

So, that’s why we got very close to each other. Another thing, which I did when I was an IEEE Region 8 Director was to welcome the visiting President of IEEE in Geneva to come to the Aiguille du Midi and then to the Glacier at 3,000 metres. Barney Oliver was one of them. Then other people, also, I took them at other places in the Alps. So I had to make lots them discover what the Alps are. That was an interesting thing. And, in my work, beside my work, I had during the two years when I was IEEE Regional Director, those were a few things that I am thinking about, that there was also a most important. The visit to the various Sections existing. Norway with NIT, Norwegian Institute of Technology [7], stop at Sweden with the Uppsala University. Germany with Rohde and Schwarz. And where I was completely unsuccessful was to start a Danish Section. I went to, ran into, a manager of a corporation. They had a Danish Society and they didn’t want to hear about the starting a Danish IRE, IEEE Section. It was started after a while after he died. Give time to die, uh? Italy. Italy, they had a nice Section around here but no Section in southern Italy. So I went to [Rome] and I encouraged them. Spain. Spain was still under Franco. And they could not get together the students or engineers but they could organise…so no question to have the Section. But we get together. We, members of IEEE, under the pretext of teaching or something of that nature. And my meeting was not in Madrid, the first one. Maybe it was in Barcelona They told me, “You should go to the Telecommunication University of Madrid and see what they do with the equipment that Hewlett-Packard sent them. And I did. I saw rstarooms, five times as big as that part with equipment that they could not use because Franco didn’t think that it would be good. They also looked…that was in 65. The equipment is obsolete today but it is probably still existing. Israel was a very interesting experience. I made good friends over there. They hosted me in a hotel with …. where there were only Jews. And at the dinner, they all had their little hat. I realised what it is to be of a different type than the majority of the people. I wanted to go to the Dead Sea. I took my car, got out of Jerusalem, matching the Hebrew characters on my map with the Hebrew characters on the street signs. Then I drove and then all of a sudden I see there’s all fences on the right hand side of the road and buildings which I thought was a place where separation of uranium was made, because there was no authorisation to photograph. Turkey. Turkey, I went to the American University in Ankara, flying from Istanbul. That was what I was doing as IEEE Region Director whereas in the meantime, with the new person that had hired my activities as engineer were continuing.

[7] Norwegian Institute of Technology is now known by its abbreviation NTH (Norges tekniske høgskole) rather than NIT, it is in Trondheim (Davies)

Davies:

Did you have visits in the USA, Nowadays …

Lebel:

Excuse me. Speak Slowly.

Davies:

Now, the Region 8 Director has to go to the USA for IEEE Board of Directors meetings.

Lebel:

I forgot that.

Davies:

Did you have this as well?

Lebel:

No. No. No. No. We had a Board of Directors every three months.

Davies:

Yes.

Lebel:

Every three months, I was going mostly to New York.

Davies:

To USA.

Lebel:

I found, at the time, a Board which was not very happy about the Region 8. Some of them nevertheless and particularly my old, my past boss at MIT was Gordon Brown who was also a Director, not a Regional Director, and helped me a great deal to convince or to encourage IEEE to look abroad and we had that …we had start of that Region 8 and I think there have been, since then, a few more Regions started, Martin.

Bastiaans:

Yeah. Yeah. At that time, Region 9 was the Rest of the World. And a few years later, Region 9 was restricted to South America. And the Rest of the World was Region 10. And a few years later, we got Africa because Africa was still …..

Lebel:

I remember that story of Africa.

Bastiaans:

…. part of Region 10. And then we got the division as it is now.

Lebel:

OK.

Information on the Switzerland Section

Bastiaans:

Since you were involved in this Swiss Section, by that time called Geneva Section, why was it called ‘Geneva’ and not ‘Switzerland’? Was that the political reason?

Lebel:

I don’t have the slightest idea. I couldn’t tell you. I don’t even remember that ..

Bastiaans:

Because …..

Lebel:

It’s a mystery and I will let it pass. It was not the people living in Geneva but the IRE or IEEE members living in all of Switzerland who was the background so that name is within start the Section in France calling it Paris section. We call it French Section of IRE first and IEEE after. And so on and so forth.

Davies:

But all the Minutes say explicitly Geneva section. And somehow, I picked up that there was a political reason for that. But I never found the reason so I hoped that you know it.

Lebel:

All I can tell you is that Switzerland is divided now, I think, in 24 Cantons. And the Canton of Geneva is one of the smallest one. But the Canton of Geneva has its borders around in France. 95% of the border of the Canton of Geneva is with France. And 5% , maybe a little bit exaggerating but certainly not more than 10%, is with the neighbour which is Canton de Vaud of which I am originally. But I don’t know why …it’s strange. I hope I could tell you something about that but …who was instrumental in that creation of the Section?

Bastiaans:

I don’t know.

Lebel:

John Gayer and I were the two who started that Section, encouraged by Ronald McFarlan.

Davies:

Was John the first Chair or..? John Gayer?

Lebel:

No. No. No. No. No. It wasn’t. I don’t think he was at first. I didn’t follow him After I came back to Paris, after 1960, I didn’t follow him.

Bastiaans:

So we should ask the Swiss Section then?

Davies:

Yes. Yes.

Lebel:

Maybe …maybe…

Davies:

Did you, at that part of time, have, in Switzerland, active members from, say Zürich or where there are more German speaking? Were they joining in or not very much?

Lebel:

It’s a good guess Tony. Zürich, after all, with EPF, Ecole Polytechnique Federale. [8] It is a great source of good physicists. Einstein graduated from there. My grandfather was there and started the electrification of Switzerland, graduated from there ten years before Einstein. And that is really not of any interest, except that I think that maybe I should try to do something, and HISTELCON is a nice place for it, to give recognition to what Adrian Palaz has done. Adrian, who is my grandfather, died in ‘33. Well, I should… I think if I do something, I should do it with the Lausanne School. But I’m not sure if I have…if I am not a little bit too old to undertake a project of that size right now.

[8] Switzerland has two federal Polytechnic Universities: One now called EPFL, at Lausanne, which is in a predominantly French-speaking area, and the other now called ETHZ at Zürich, which is in a predominantly German-speaking area. EPFL = École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne.

ETHZ = Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich. (Davies)

Davies:

Maybe someone can help.

Lebel:

If someone could help.

Davies:

If someone could help would be the answer.

Lebel:

And I don’t know, how does .. Switzerland is represented at HISTELCON?

Davies:

Have we anyone?

Bastiaans:

We .. I spoke to someone from EFPL today …

Davies:

OK. That’s from Lausanne?

Bastiaans:

From Lausanne. Yes. Maybe that’s the only one.

Davies:

We can talk about it ….

Lebel:

Yes. There was one person from Lausanne.

Davies:

Yes.

Bastiaans:

Yes.

Lebel:

Probably from the École..

Bastiaans:

It says EPFL..

Lebel:

So that is a part of where I was really involved in engineering. Now, after, having sold my consulting office in 1972, I was asked, encouraged, to look at the French Societies. The first one I looked at, and was elected Chairman a few years after, was the Alumni Association of École Superieure d’Électricite. Then I was told that there was three engineering Societies which were working in parallel, namely the FASFID, F, Federation; A, Association; S, Society; F, French; I, Ingenieur; D, Diplome, FASFID. Fasfid was a federation in which the various alumni associations of the various engineering schools were re-grouped. And I was asked to take care of that. I was not very enthusiastic at the beginning because I thought it was going to disappear pretty soon. And I didn’t want to be an undertaker. Nevertheless, Roger Robert who is still living, convinced me. And I took the job for a few years. I think, by the Bylaws, the job could be only five or six years. Then, at the time, I saw many other organisations and I discovered another organisation called Conseil National des Ingenieurs Francais, CNIF [9]. And I was told, well, your term as Chairman of the Federation Association Societe Francaise Ingenieurs Diplome is over or will be over, you should take the job of Chairman of the CNIF, I said ‘all right;’. But that was really too much. That was a third one, the Ingenieur Scientifique de France. OK. For more than 20 years, they had been trying to reduce that to a single organisation. That was my work for a couple of years, to arrange the whole thing and make it voted by the General Assemblies of those three organisations. At the same time, to start another organisation which I named Conseil Nationale des Ingenieurs et Scientifiques de France. I learned that, one of my successors, recently, without asking me my advice, has changed the name. But you know we are in a time where…

[9] Actually CNISF, as said in the next sentence: Conseil Nationale des Ingenieurs Societe Francais (Davies)

Davies:

Was there a relationship between this and IEEE? Were they jealous of one another or supporting one another or no connection?

Lebel:

IEEE couldn’t care less, I think, about it.

Davies:

Because in the UK, I mean, there was always a little jealousy sometimes between IEE and IEEE – but you did not have this?

Lebel:

Oh, IEE !!. Bob Williams said something else. I was very often invited to London and speaked about those questions. So I still had some activities which didn’t involve engineering really. It didn’t mean that I was really involved. I was looking over. I was getting older also …

Director of IEEE

Davies:

And from the IEEE side, after you were Director, other people were elected. What was the process of getting your successor? You had two years as Director. Somebody else will come in after you. Was there, like now, elections? How were the candidates chosen? Could you say something about this?

Lebel:

Not more than by voting for one or the other.

Davies:

OK. The candidates …..

Lebel:

The ballot which was sent by headquarters.

Davies:

But somebody must pick the candidates. What was the process there?

Lebel:

I was out of it completely.

Davies:

Oh, OK.

Lebel:

Completely.

Davies:

So you were not involved?

Lebel:

No. As I say to Martin, I think I was out of IEEE. I did my job, and went out.

Davies:

OK.

Bastiaans:

Before you entered, you…OK, you were the representative of the France Section?

Lebel:

Yes.

Bastiaans:

In the IRE meetings and the first IEEE meetings when Rinia was the Director? And then, there was the question of who will be the successor of Rinia? And you were the …..

Lebel:

Because Rinia told me, “You should be my successor.”

Bastiaans:

That was my question.

Bastiaans:

Who approached you? That was Rinia?

Lebel:

It was Rinia.

Bastiaans:

But not you who said, “I want to be the Director.”

Lebel:

Oh no, no, no, no. I ..no, no. That was not my way of life. Not at all. If Rinia said it, I said, “Why not? I’ll be glad to.” That’s all.

Davies:

So he chose you, more or less.

Lebel:

Ah?

Davies:

He chose you.

Lebel:

I think Rinia chose me, yes. I think Rinia chose me and said, “You have to be elected.” So that was very easy. There were no other candidates.

Davies:

Yes. And after your time, did you choose your successor or not?

Lebel:

Eh, I think, at the time, Rinia told me, suggested that I become Director. And he said, another candidate would be good, would be Bob Williams. But he is also from Philips. Hence it wouldn’t be a good idea to have two Philips men, one after the other.

Bastiaans:

Am I right that in the …. in your first year, John Gayer was your Secretary? Maybe combined with Treasurer. And at the second year, it was Bob Williams?

Lebel:

Ah, the second year was..?

Bastiaans:

The second year, Bob Williams became your Secretary?

Lebel:

No. Oh maybe.

Bastiaans:

And after that he became the third Director

Lebel:

He had already … you know the things much better. You’re wonderful…

Bastiaans:

Yes but some of my things have still question marks and I hoped that you could answer that but … I think…

Lebel:

I did give you my answer which is not very helpful I’m afraid.

Bastiaans:

So your successor was Bob Williams. That’s for sure.

Davies:

And in those days, the serving people were thinking, who shall come next and picking them, more or less. This was the way it worked I suppose.

Lebel:

Oh very much so. And then they gave the elected who had been . .there are two..

Davies:

Two candidates, is another question.

Lebel:

Two candidates. Every member chooses one or the other.

Davies:

can vote ..yes

Lebel:

And I got not really interested anymore in IRE. I was very honoured that you suggested that I should give some recollections tomorrow.

Bastiaans:

Of course.

Lebel:

I thank you.

Bastiaans:

You are the only one that is in our neighbourhood who was present at the very first meeting.

Lebel:

When I am telling to my friend that I have to give a talk in Pavia, I said, “Well, the person before me is dead. The person after me is dead. So they asked the one who lives. (laughter).

Bastiaans:

That’s right.

Visiting the IEEE Sections in the Region

Davies:

You mentioned going around to visit the Sections.

Lebel:

Yes.

Davies:

And Israel and others. I think Egypt was also a Section at this time or not yet?

Lebel:

No.

Bastiaans:

Yes, it was.

Lebel:

There was a question. Palestine was a Section because I had, in the meeting in Geneva which I had of the various Sections, the Palestinian and the Israelian. I seat them at both table, at both ends of the tables. And everything went smoothly. But I don’t remember, Martin, of any Egyptian Section but I may be wrong.

Bastiaans:

And this was called Cairo at the time, by the way, which makes sense because everything happens in Cairo. Actually, Israel was the first Section, ‘54, and immediately followed by Egypt in ‘55.

Davies:

So you raised this question …

Lebel:

During the time of ….

Bastiaans:

IRE time, not during your time. It was already a Section.

Lebel:

It was already a Section? Before my time?

Bastiaans:

Yes. Yes.

Lebel:

I didn’t know it at all.. That’s why I didn’t visit it. I tried to visit every Section.

Davies:

I’m wondering you mentioned Palestine Section. I think we don’t know of anything like that now.

Bastiaans:

No. I don’t know.

Davies:

Something not remembered. But the Palestine’s…

Lebel:

There were Palestinian who were included. That’s why I am not absolutely clear again on who is the … I tell you why I’m not in agreement with the .. Egyptian Section for Region 8. Region 8 was territorially the Broadcasting of Europe That included Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Italy and so on. But not ..but not Egypt. That’s why .. that.. [10]

[10] Mention of Egypt in this first list was made but clearly a verbal slip and not intended (Davies)

Davies:

It is …it’s the certain parallel circle on the earth.

Bastiaans:

It even has this small detour to include Sudan because Sudan, I think at that time, was still part of Egypt. I can show you the map.

Davies:

Interesting.

Student Paper Contest

Bastiaans:

What I remember is that you took initiative for the Student Paper Contest.

Lebel:

Ah, I forgot the most important thing.

Bastiaans:

That’s what I think.

Lebel:

It’s really a shame that Jespers does not come. And I told him a year ago that I would visit him, and I have not done it. But maybe after HISTELCON I will do it anyway. Jespers was Professor at University of Louvain and he was helping me in Region 8, I can’t recall exactly which function but it doesn’t matter. We had learned of the existence of the Student Contest in the other Regions. So we decided to start the Student Contest. That was the election where, to begin with first every Section which choose by some organisation, contest organisation, one candidate. Then those candidates who would get together at one place or another, in Europe. So that bring together people, students of various countries which was a very good thing. There was a contest. And the winner was sent to the United States and met the winners of the other Regions. And I think, I’m quite sure I don’t know if it is the same structure but it is still going on. And I think it’s thanks to Paul, Paul Jespers. I think it’s one of the most important things that the Region 8 has done. The creation of the Student Contest.

Davies:

I’m thinking of another name that I associate with the student activities particularly, Dick Poortvliet.

Lebel:

Poortvliet?

Davies:

Poortvliet.

Lebel:

I remember…

Davies:

… who unfortunately died but he was very active with students.

Bastiaans:

But that was much later.

Davies:

Much later I suppose, yes.

Bastiaans:

Another name would be Andre van der Vorst because when …...

Lebel:

Yes. Van der Vorst.

Bastiaans:

Yes, because when Paul Jespers was the ….

Lebel:

I did not understand the exchange of mail that we had, Van der Vorst, that I thought…. I probably confuse with Bruce Barrow, between Bruce Barrow and van der Vorst. I thought he was van der Vorst who called me a morning and tell me with the merger of IRE and AIEE we have problem with IRE Region. And I thought it was van der Vorst.

Davies:

I think he is too young. He is too young.

Bastiaans:

He was not involved at that time. It can only be Bruce Barrow.

Lebel:

It was probably Bruce.. Yes.

Bastiaans:

Am I right that there was a lady in your tour, travelling around, that was visiting universities to start founding Student Branches?

Lebel:

That was probably the only thing I did after my end of term as a Region 8 Director.

Bastiaans:

So as a past Director?

Lebel:

It was important and I went speaking to various universities or Écoles des Ingenieurs because you know the difference in France system. And I did succeed in starting some Student Branches in various places. That’s why perhaps, probably when …the only activity I kept after … well after it was normal because I was …. I had started the French Section and these Student Branches are Branches of the Section.

Davies:

Yes.

Bastiaans:

So then you joined, I guess you joined then Paul Jespers when he was the Student Activities Chair in travelling around and trying to ..

Lebel:

Ask Paul how we worked together. But we got together and were very friendly. You know him?

Bastiaans:

I know him but…and I met him but not very … good, not very well, because I met him when the …our Section had its 50th anniversary. He was there because he is one of the previous Section Chairs. But I, at that time, I was not involved in this historical research otherwise I would have grabbed him;

Davies:

Yes.

Lebel:

Well it’s a bad question from me but the Benelux Section is Netherlands and Belgium and Luxembourg, no?

Davies:

Yes. Yes.

Bastiaans:

Great.

Lebel:

My recollection comes back.

Bastiaans:

This was the very start of the European Union. (laughter)

Davies:

Well maybe yes. So, I think we covered a lot of topics. Time is passing. Have we spoken of all matters of importance or is there something else?

Lebel:

If I found … if I remember something when I read your draft, I will certainly suggest to add something. That’s it.

Davies:

OK. Well thank you very much for all these interesting remarks …

Lebel:

Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me.

Davies:

Well it’s a pleasure and maybe they will not listen but we should thank the Hotel Moderno for providing this nice room at zero cost.

Lebel:

It’s a nice hotel.

Davies:

Yes.

Lebel:

It’s very well kept and very good shape.