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Oral-History:John Douglass Ryder

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About John Douglass Ryder

John Ryder received his bachelor's and masters' degrees from Ohio State University. Upon completion of his master's degree in 1929, he began working for General Electric in Schenectady, New York. In 1941, he took a teaching position at Iowa State College that allowed him to continue his doctorate work. Upon completing his Ph.D. in 1944, he was appointed full professor at Iowa State. In 1947, he became assistant director of the engineering experiment station at Iowa where he worked with Warren Boast in developing a high frequency analyzer for the regional utility companies. In 1949, he left Iowa to head the electrical engineering department at the University of Illinois. He was named Dean of Michigan State University in 1954.

John Ryder has had a distinguished career not only as an engineer and an educator, but also in his capacity as advisor on numerous military advisory panels and committees as well as his service to IRE and IEEE. He served IRE as an education advocate in his position as director at large. He was also editor and chairman of IRE's editorial board and served as IRE president in 1955. After the merger of IRE and AIEE, he was the first editor of Spectrum. In addition, he was a member of the 1967 U.S.A.I.D. higher education mission to Brazil.

The interview begins with a discussion of Ryder's early education and his first job with General Electric which involved work on the early development of large, heavy-duty ferrotrons. He discusses his graduate work under W.L. Everett and his position with the Bailey Meter Company of Cleveland, a job that he held throughout the Depression. He soon decided to return to academia and pursue his doctorate. The interview continues with a discussion of the fundamental changes occurring in engineering education in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He discusses his textbook publications, his efforts directed toward curriculum reform, and his involvement at Iowa State in developing a working relationship between the academic research community and industry. He also comments extensively on the architectural design of the engineering building at Iowa State and his "Four Freedoms" philosophy in the design of university engineering facilities.

The interview continues with a wide-ranging discussion of Ryder's experiences while at Michigan State University, including architectural design, curriculum reorganization, and the development of the MSTIC computer. He offers comments on the relationship between science and engineering, the place of computer science departments within the academic environment, and the ways in which engineering has become an experimental science, representing more than a highly applied field of study. To this end, he comments upon necessary reforms in engineering curriculum, as well as the broader social relationship between engineering students and the larger student body in a university setting.

The interview also covers Dr. Ryder's extensive involvement with the IRE, and AIEE, his service on a variety of military advisory panels, two anecdotes concerning his experience as an expert witness in patent infringement suits, and his work with the 1967 U.S.A.I.D. higher education mission to Brazil.

The second half of the interview focuses primarily on Dr. Ryder's views of the IRE-AIEE merger. This discussion is framed within the context of his experience within IRE, and his commitment to progressive engineering education. He outlines the shifting interests of engineering students from power to electronics and the response of postwar industry to this change. He goes on to discuss the contrasting efforts of IRE and AIEE in encouraging student activities within the professional societies, and the impact these efforts had on subsequent student membership. He discusses his association with Morris Hooven, including their meeting in 1955 that led to the concept of joint membership in the two societies. Ryder offers extensive comments on the differences between AIEE and IRE, both in philosophy and organizational structure. The interview continues with a discussion of the merger process, including comments on the principle players involved, the role of engineering unionism, and the contrasting influence of academic versus industry representatives. The interview concludes with a discussion of the merged society's publication policy, the introduction of Spectrum, and Ryder's achievements as IEEE's first editor.


About the Interview

John Douglas Ryder: An Interview Conducted by George C. Sell, IEEE History Center, August 22-23, 1979

Interview # 033 for the IEEE History Center, 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:

John Douglas Ryder, an oral history conducted in 1979 by George C. Sell, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

Interview: John Douglas Ryder Interviewer: George C. Sell Place: Atlanta, Georgia Date: August 22-23, 1979

Family Background and Education

Sell:

This interview is part of the oral history project conducted under the joint auspices of the history committee of the IEEE and the Center for the History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The interviewee today is John Douglas Ryder, the interviewer is George C. Sell, and this takes place in Atlanta, Georgia on August 22, 1979. We have agreed that once the material on this tape is transcribed and the transcription edited, there are no restrictions on access or use.

Well, Dean Ryder, we know that you were born in Columbus, Ohio on May 8, 1907 but that’s all that I really know about your family, your parents.

Ryder:

I was an only child and my father was for many years manager of the Columbus office of Dun and Bradstreet, a credit agency.

Sell:

He was an accountant?

Ryder:

No. He had no education beyond the eighth grade, except for having taken a lot of night school work.

Sell:

In accounting?

Ryder:

In accounting. I attended high school at Grandview Heights, a suburb of Columbus, and was very fortunate in having an excellent mathematics teacher, an excellent science teacher and an excellent English teacher. This was back in the days when some of these were men. The high school was pretty small, but to represent the characteristics of the 1924 graduates, we had a class of 38, I think only 8 ever went to the university and as far as I know, only 4 ever graduated out of the 38. It simply wasn’t the style in those days and I know that I am the only one who ever took any graduate work. Because we were in Columbus, it was the foregone conclusion that I’d go to Ohio State University. My father pushed me towards mechanical engineering, which I successfully avoided. Thank Goodness!

Sell:

At what age did he start pushing?

Ryder:

In early high school. I took all the science, all the chemistry and the physics. We didn’t have any other choice. We had a four room high school that could teach four subjects and you took four subjects.

Sell:

Did your mother also agree in this?

Ryder:

Oh yes. I got interested in amateur radio in my senior year, due to the math teacher. That pushed me towards electrical engineering instead of mechanical. I have been thankful ever since because I would have been bored stiff with mechanical engineering, apologies to all my mechanical engineering friends. At Ohio State I was probably a typical freshman. I didn’t have sense enough to profit on my good high school training so I didn’t take any comp exams and my freshman year was very easy. The department of electrical engineering was refreshed in my junior and senior year by its acquisition of Bill Everitt as a young assistant professor just with his master’s degree. The rest of the department had several very good teachers but the curriculum was badly dated as viewed from this time and place. Much of my time really was wasted. I was favored by the department head picking me out in April of my senior year and suggesting that I might be interested in a fellowship for master’s degree, if he could get it for me. I told him that I would be. Since he had it in his hand at the moment, I got it. This required that I write Jim Lincoln in the Lincoln Electric Company and decline his job offer that I had previously accepted. I received from him the standard reply of that day, which is still used with some people today: If you are going to get into engineering work you better get in and get some experience.

Sell:

Not always the best advice.

Ryder:

Not always the best advice. Very short term sort of advice. I stayed on for a master’s degree, not wanting to work in antennas.

Sell:

Before we go into the graduate training and talking about the fact that you received funding, the fellowship funding was from what source?

Ryder:

It was from the estate of a very early professor at Ohio State and was known as “The Robinson Fellowship.” It carried a stipend of $750 for nine months and paid all the fees.

Sell:

So for the day it was pretty generous.

Pittsburgh vs. Schenectady

Ryder:

It was very satisfactory and I lived at home and made money and bought a used model A Ford at the end of the year. Between the junior and senior year, I worked for the Westinghouse Company in East Pittsburgh. Between the senior year and the graduate year I was broad minded and went to Schenectady and worked for the General Electric Company in that period. After graduation I decided that I preferred the Adirondacks to the hills of East Pittsburgh and went back to the General Electric Company.

Sell:

I’m sure that you’re being facetious.

Ryder:

No. The surroundings were so much better in Schenectady and I have always been.

Sell:

Not merely climatic or natural.

Ryder:

Oh well, the two companies I have always felt equal. Their policies and operations were very similar but I simply did not prefer East Pittsburgh as a place to work. And that was in the day of course when at noon in the bright sun you saw the carbon particles settling down in the atmosphere.

Sell:

Yes, I grew up in Pittsburgh so I am familiar with that.

Ryder:

It was before Pittsburgh cleaned up.

Sell:

Yes.

Ryder:

At Schenectady you could get out into the hills a little bit very easily, and going back with my masters degree — why I had a car and could enjoy the surroundings. Actually, Westinghouse did me a favor. In the summer of 1927 they were having a slow time, but they kept us all on. The summer jobs were not very interesting, but they kept us on and it was always possible to put some yellow papers in your hand and go wandering around the shop. If you didn’t have any yellow papers in your hand you were going to be picked up by a guard somewhere, but if you had yellow papers and looked like you were going somewhere you could walk through the big machine aisles, and go over and see the things you were interested in. My first summer at Schenectady I assembled condenser microphones and wired up some transmitters for tests and things like that. After I went back with my master’s degree I started out in what later became RCA Photophone. This was acoustic work. They were having trouble with talking movies going into theaters with no acoustic treatment, and our job was to develop loudspeakers, baffles and so forth that would make the sound intelligible. I was offered a chance to go to Camden when RCA Photophone moved down there. The offer came from V. W. Angstrom, who most recently has been president of RCA, so I was picked by a good man at any rate, but I didn’t choose to smell Campbell's soup. So, I didn’t go. When they moved to Camden in January of 1930, I stayed on at Schenectady, transferring to the vacuum tube engineering department under Bill White. Bill White’s main claim to fame was that he was one of the early workers under Langmuir on vacuum tubes and he always insisted that every young engineer should know the color of vacuum. The work involved early development on large heavy duty Thyratrons up to 100 amperes and 15,000 volts, which I have always maintained was a power device although some of my power friends always looked upon me as a high frequency man — but that will come out later.

Masters Thesis

Sell:

Prior to your going on into industry for your first positions let us step back to graduate training. I would like to get some information on the MS thesis you obtained, in 1929. Who was the thesis supervisor?

Ryder:

The thesis supervisor was Bill Everitt, W. L. Everitt, and I have always been thankful for the old department head who encouraged me to take graduate work. If I hadn’t gone on into advanced math and physics and my thesis, I would have been pretty much a shell of a sixty cycle power man. I really date my modernizing from the time I started a masters degree. The thesis was a follow-up on work that had been done by the Robinson Fellow in the preceding year, by J. F. Byrne on the single-wire fed antenna.

Sell:

Who put you on to do this?

Ryder:

Everitt. This single-wire fed antenna was a major topic in amateur radio at the time and very little was known about how you terminated the feeder. My main success there was in carrying on further measurements about the variation of the antenna characteristics and feed point with elevation above ground and also in rather conclusively showing that a properly terminated single-wire feeder did not radiate. We did this by putting an antenna between two flag poles on Ohio Stadium and feeding it with 700 feet of feed line, properly terminated. Then we went around the territory with a field-strength meter trying to find out where the radiation was coming from. We figured with the 700 feet of feed line it was going to radiate and that we’d find it. Everywhere we went the radiation was obviously coming from the antenna and not from the feed line. This has been an important argument about whether a single wire feeder did or did not radiate.

Sell:

So that was the work it’s...

Ryder:

It was written up by Byrne and Everitt. Both their earlier work and some of mine are in the IRE Proceedings of about 1929 or 1930. It has been resurrected within the last year or so by a man named Nagel in Ham Radio Magazine, who looked at the antenna again. But this introduced me to some of the more theoretical aspects of radiation and helped later on when I started to work on the doctorate.

Sell:

And also of course this directed you more toward electronics.

Ryder:

Oh yes. Very definitely towards electronics as against the power.

GE and Bailey Electric Company

Ryder:

As I said, I had accepted the job with Jim Lincoln but it was largely based on Jim Lincoln’s personality and not on the fact that he made welding machines. Then going into the General Electric Company and into the vacuum tube engineering department, why the die was cast. This work in early Thyratrons, a now obsolete "animal". In 1931 the Depression was breathing down your neck as a test man in Schenectady. I was offered a chance through the General Electric Company to go to the Bailey Meter Company in Cleveland, Ohio, with the understanding that I was on trial to show Bailey Meter whether or not there was anything in their industry for electronics. So I transferred there in March of 1931.

Sell:

That’s quite a responsibility.

Ryder:

They kept me on all through the Depression so I guess I showed them something. To the tune of 24 patents. And also the fact that my present wife was living in Cleveland didn't have any deleterious effects in the transfer, but this was a company....

Sell:

Did you know her before this?

Ryder:

I met her in Schenectady. She was teaching in Cleveland.

Sell:

Teaching what?

Ryder:

History and mathematics in junior high school.

Sell:

Good match. A very good match. A meeting of minds.

Ryder:

Well, there’s a commentary to be made on the Bailey Meter Company. At the time it seemed we were generally accepted as the leading company in power plant instrumentation and boiler control. It is not the leading company today. I think this is due to management policies and the lack of hiring people and engineers with more than practical training.

Sell:

So, in a sense they really didn’t ultimately learn the lesson you were teaching.

Ryder:

They didn’t learn their lesson. No. I put them in electronics. I was back there a few years ago and I suggested to one of my friends and Vice President that he might consider say a tenth of one percent override on all their electronic equipment. He didn’t see it my way. But, I had a job all through the Depression. Well, their research department was a special products department; it wasn’t doing basic research. The most interesting job came along in 1937 when I was presented with a very complex, empirical equation which had been developed by two engineers at the British American Oil Company in Montreal. This would predict in terms of flow, density, and temperature. It would predict the gasoline output of a cracking still. They wanted an instrument that would calculate this equation so they could control the cracking stills not for temperature, as was usually done, but to maintain a constant percentage output of gasoline, measuring flows and temperatures and densities. They had devised a method of measuring density in place. Because, of course, in these cracking stills there are phase changes, all through. From liquid to gaseous and back and forth and so your density is very critical.

I successfully solved this equation as an electrical problem, an electrical analogy. It turned out that their equation could be mathematically thrown into the form of the equation of two resistors in parallel. So if I could get two resistors to vary in accordance with certain of these variables, I connected them in parallel and there’s my gasoline. And I had previously been working with motor-driven potentiometer recorders, so we had the instrumentation to solve these Wheatstone Bridges that resulted from the measurements on density, temperature and flow. What came out of it was an instrument replacing the lab technician who previously had gone down to the cracking still, drawn off some bombs containing samples from the still, taken it up to the lab, and called up four hours later at 11:00 in the morning, to say, “Well, at 7:00 in the morning you were doing thus!" This instrument calculated that same result in twelve seconds. Of course, it can be done very much faster today, but that was a big advance. That was the most interesting job I had.

Iowa State University

Teaching and Ph.D.

Ryder:

Then right at that time, or just a little later, I had an opportunity to go into teaching at Iowa State University, Iowa State College then. I had been taking night work in physics and mathematics at Case School in Cleveland and this Iowa State job gave me a chance to go on with my doctorate. So, we accepted that and went to Iowa.

Sell:

Well if you were having such a good time and so many good successes in industry, why were a Ph.D. and academia necessarily attractive?

Ryder:

I think some of my later interests were already showing because I was drastically disturbed at working for some people who were mechanical engineers. I don’t want that to berate the breed, but I discovered they were educated differently than I was and I have seen this since in teaching. I knew there was something different because we’d be tossed a problem and mechanical engineers would immediately say, “Well, let’s go out to the shop and see it.” I would want to sit down and start writing some equations about it. I didn’t care what the thing looked like; I wanted the fundamentals behind the problem. This was the difference, which is actually a difference in form of education.

Sell:

It sounds also as if you are talking about fundamental difference in worldview.

Ryder:

This you will find out later on where I went and I was disturbed by this difference, by the lack of willingness to put time or money on the fundamentals of problems and the readiness to solve or gloss them over to get a fix on something instead of attacking the fundamental point. So the chance to go into academia and work on the doctorate was very appealing.

Sell:

Did you find that in dealing with the mechanical engineers you are speaking of, it was difficult to simply even talk to them about it?

Ryder:

It wasn’t too hard to talk to them. What I had to do was simply go off in my own corner and write my equations and come up with my theoretical solution and then set up the model which would demonstrate that I was right. At the same time...

Sell:

As well as setting up something that they could look at. And once they had their back to you then.. You were translating for their different orientations.

Ryder:

There was one problem in an instrument that had involved electrical contact and they kept speeding the contact up, so the instrument pin that was being actuated by this electrical contact started to jiggle. It wouldn’t draw a straight line anymore, but one very wavy and very erratic. I sat down and figured out what they were asking of this electrical contact in terms of time, and they were asking that it make a solid electrical contact within about a hundred thousandth of an inch. I didn’t think it could be done. I simply set up a contact on a long lever arm with a micrometer on it and demonstrated that when out here on one end you moved a thousandth of an inch and on the other end you moved a hundred thousandths of an inch, you didn’t know when the contact was made. They would see that and so they backed off. You had to do that kind of thing. You had to get over into their language; they couldn’t come into yours and this brings up another rule of thumb that I think is right. I have always felt that the best deans were electrical engineers and that you could always talk down to people technically but it’s very difficult to talk up. In other words, civil engineers are somewhat less mathematically abstract. It isn’t very hard, I think, for an electrical engineer to see some of their problems.

Sell:

The assistant professorship that you had in Iowa State College in 1941, you took the position with it being understood that you would be working on your Ph.D.?

Ryder:

Yes.

Sell:

You obtained that three years later.

Ryder:

Three years later.

Sell:

And at that point, you were also elevated to professor.

Ryder:

I had a department head, who was a one-time president of the AIEE, too, and who knew how to handle people. So I got my doctorate degree at ceremonies in the morning and in the afternoon he gave me a letter from the president promoting me to full professor. I never was an associate professor. I jumped a rank. I introduce that as showing how to handle personnel.

Sell:

Well, I was wondering about your three years holding down an assistant professorship as well as working on your Ph.D. Do you feel that this had any effect upon your relationship with your fellow colleagues within the department?

Ryder:

No, because we had a very unusual combination for that day. We had a half dozen young fellows, assistant instructors or assistant professors, of which three or four were also working on their doctorates. We had three or four very much older men in the department, but the department head was a real campus politician, a wonderful man who knew how to let the young fellows carry the ball and run with it. In fact one time he said, “You folks go ahead. I’ll go get you the money,” and you can’t ask for any more than that on the campus.

Sell:

So there was good atmosphere, freedom, and congeniality.

Ryder:

We were in classes together, classes in physics or mathematics or EE. It was a day when of course the number of doctorates and faculties were still small. I have considered that twelve year gap in there as being about six years too long. The gap between my M.S. and my Ph.D. was about six years too long. In other words, in six years I would have learned all I learned at Bailey Meter Company. But if I had left in 1935 or 1936 and taken the doctorate I wouldn’t have gotten as good a doctorate as I did in the early 1940s after the impact of the war and radar and some of the other high frequency things. I would have had a more old fashioned power oriented doctorate that wouldn’t have done me the good I wanted.

Sell:

In this kind of rather unusual situation you were able to spend part of your time in classes and then the rest of the time trying out a lot of your ideas on younger students. Did you find it was also possible to say the rest of the new electronics developments were occurring as a result of the war?

Ryder:

Yes, I think so. Of course, there were a few years there in the war where you didn’t hear about these new developments. You went back and reviewed some of the fundamentals, but we were reviewing them in the physics department and in EE both so there was no problem with keeping up to date.

Sell:

Things were pretty fast breaking at the time.


World War Two

Ryder:

They were, they were. After I had my doctorate this department was removed and put in charge of a naval school there. We taught officer candidates.

Sell:

What year is this now?

Ryder:

1943, 1944, 1945. The young fellows in the department as I say were allowed to run freely. As soon as we discovered the Navy curriculum was not going to be enforced with standard exams or with Navy inspectors dropping in unannounced, we ran with it because the EE curriculum struck us as if it had been prepared by somebody who had stopped teaching in 1925. So we started teaching what we thought we ought to teach. I know the so-called course in instrumentation turned out to be a course in transmission lines. We thought we’d give the students what they needed and not what the curriculum called for. We did some other experimentation, academic experimentation such as trying to determine whether a three hour course, a four hour course, or a five hour course was the most efficient with the material. We could do this because the students were regimented in the Navy and they appeared in class when we said they should appear. So it was an interesting time. Toward the end of the war why I was made acting head of the department, and then given the job of preparing a new curriculum for the department or being chairman of the curriculum committee.

Postwar: Teaching and Textbooks

Sell:

Was this immediately after the war?

Ryder:

Yes. It was 1946. I think we had one of the very first pulse technique courses in the country at the university and I know out of these courses in pulse techniques we supplied most of the pulse people for what is now the Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis. In other words, industry finds a school that will supply the kind of men they want.

Sell:

Was there a major influx of students in 1946 also?

Ryder:

Oh yes. Right after the war with the GI Bill the number of students went up and the schools were badly strained. The unfortunate thing about that was there is a tendency among educators to date the changes in electrical engineering as occurring about 1950 not 1946. Of course, some schools didn’t even change over until late in the 1950s. This is unfortunate because we turned down a lot of students who could have been better trained out. What it essentially meant was that they had to introduce more mathematics, more field theory, and a more broad-based circuits area. What we did at Iowa State University was that curriculum committee. We had learned that a four hour course, with four meetings a week was about the most efficient if you could afford that much time on a subject. This was the quarter system, so you only had to go for ten weeks. A two hour course has too much time between classes; you don’t get enough carried over from one class to another. Three hour courses are better, four hour courses are better yet, and five hour courses are not quite so good because the human mind likes a little break in the monotony. With four days you have one day to slack off and it seems to work better. We also said we were not going to design any course around an existing textbook. If there was a need for a course, then there was a new textbook written; out of that philosophy came five textbooks. I wrote two of them, my mates wrote three others. There was a need for the books, they all sold well. At one time, my first two electronics books, according to the publisher, had over half of the electronics business in the country.

Sell:

I'm not clear on that...

Ryder:

In numbers of books published. They had over half the business in electrical engineering, electronics courses. In the big schools as well as the little schools. Over half the books sold for a year were my electronic books. This came about because just before I had finished my doctorate thesis in 1944, Prentice Hall sent a man out to talk to me at Bill Everitt's urging. Bill Everitt was then editor in an electrical engineering series for Prentice Hall, so he said that a man should come out and suggest that I write an electronics book. At his urging I wrote three or four chapters and sent them in. They liked them and came out with a contract. The first book was only about 300 pages, but I essentially just wrote down what I was teaching in class with a little bit of rebellion against the then best accepted books which I thought were too heavy. It was not that I was against the fundamentals, but we were really into the vacuum tubes of that day; we didn’t care how much the electron had to do to dodge the grid wires. We were more interested in what the tube would do when it was plugged into the socket, so I was trying to downplay some of the electron physics and ballistics as was represented in the other books. The book did take very well but then they suggested that I do an enlarged version and so that led to the first two books. As a result of this curriculum we needed a book in the circuit theory area for high frequencies or radio frequencies and communications and so that led to Networks, Lines, and Fields . It’s now out of print; it went through two editions and just was taken out of print last week when it was written in 1947.

Sell:

That is remarkable.

Ryder:

I still think it’s the best book I wrote. I would like to go back and read it as a novel.

Sell:

When you first published it, it was reviewed in the press?

Ryder:

Oh, yes.

Sell:

What kind of initial reception did it have?

Ryder:

Very good, very good. Networks, Lines, and Fields had for that time a rather radical departure in the treatment of the transmission lines. The editor, Bill Everitt, was an old time transmission man; he had his own book, Communication Engineering for McGraw Hill. He had used the Bell Labs imitation of hyperbolic cosines, hyperbolic sines in the transmission equations and I objected to this and introduced the use of exponential terms. My theory being that the exponential showed two waves going in opposite directions on the line, whereas the cosines and sines obscured that, blending the two together. Bill and I had some arguments before he approved my manuscript but since that time other manuscripts have adopted the same philosophy. Each of these books was written largely just the way I taught the course in class. Another man wrote two books in circuits and magnetics and another man wrote a book for the pulse techniques course. There’s the five books.

Engineering Experiment Station

Ryder:

At Iowa State in 1947 I was appointed assistant director of the Engineering Experiment Station and was teaching only graduate level work in electronics. The Engineering Experiment Station was an interesting although frustrating experience because during the war, the existing dean had decided that research was going to stop for the duration. He had closed down all operations of the Engineering Experiment Stations. And so in 1947 there was a new dean and I was given the job of resurrecting a dead program and it was about like resurrecting a dead horse.

Sell:

You were the associate director?

Ryder:

Yes.

Sell:

Who was the director?

Ryder:

This is in the day when the dean himself was the director.

Sell:

I see.

Ryder:

The man that actually runs the Experiment Station is called an assistant director. So I ran it but the dean was the director. It was a very difficult, very frustrating job because we had lost some of the good people who had done research. Besides, most of the activity before the war had been in civil engineering and that was not where the interest or the money was after the war. I discovered very quickly that no one before the war had ever heard of the word “overhead” and the university had never collected a penny of overhead. It had one industrial laboratory of about six thousand square feet which was supporting one graduate fellowship and not paying a penny of rent. So we instituted overhead charges and this led to an interesting situation. The accounting department was quite willing to go along with me. They continued to do a very excellent job at keeping the books and gave us all the money. They didn’t collect a penny. This is in contrast to later experiences.

Sell:

Then what did you do with that money?

Ryder:

This was the first money the dean had ever had which was absolutely free. He could do with it what he needed to do in the college. Considering that at that time he had an equipment budget of $15,000 a year, another $15,000 or so was very, very helpful.

Sell:

There was no separation between the laboratory and equipment that the experiment station employed and the department used?

Ryder:

No. The experiment station was integrated with teaching. There were one or two people who were totally on the experiment station budget, but they were used for teaching or handling graduate students and the equipment was all integrated.

High-Frequency Analyzer

Sell:

What sort of projects and research were you able to initiate under the experiments division?

Ryder:

I was interested in following up an idea on a new design of a network analyzer for the power systems.

Sell:

Power systems of the utilities.

Ryder:

Power systems of the utilities. Up to that time General Electric and Westinghouse had made model equipment called “network analyzers” operating at sixty hertz, by which you could simulate the whole transmission and generating system of the utility or several utilities. They operated these analyzers at Pittsburgh or at Schenectady. Utilities came in there with a particular problem, then set up the parameters of their power system. They interconnected the transmission lines and the generators and could measure the currents and the voltages at various places, predicting what would happen if they built the new line from point A to point Q.

Sell:

So in a sense this was systems modeling.

Ryder:

It was systems modeling of an early day. Well, the problem with this was that at sixty hertz the inductors were not very good inductors. Their resistances were high and had to be compensated for. I thought that if we went to a higher frequency we could make the inductors have such a high quality factor that we could forget the resistance of the inductor. We would have a simple, pure inductor.

Sell:

And then you would mathematically back down to sixty cycles.

Ryder:

Sixty cycles, yes. It didn’t make any difference what the frequency was, it was a constant. You were interested in currents and voltages around the system.

Sell:

Was there any problems with?

Ryder:

Oh there were problems, I should say there were. But this department head I mentioned, was named Cooper. He later was the President of the IEE. He saw the possibilities of very close relations with power companies and so he said, "You go ahead, you pick somebody to work with you and I’ll go get the money." So he got some money for Dr. Boast and myself to get started. I picked up Warren Boast, who at that time was an illuminations specialist, at Iowa State in the faculty.

Sell:

He was a full professor?

Ryder:

No, he was assistant professor at the time. He has since then been department head. This professor Cooper contacted the various Iowa utility companies as well as the system over in Omaha, Nebraska. We set up an organization of these utilities who agreed to give us enough money to produce the first small working model of such a high-frequency analyzer.

Sell:

At what frequency?

Ryder:

We picked 10,000 hertz, extrapolated from sixty to ten thousand. Many times during the construction we regretted this very much and we wished we'd stopped with 1,000. But when we got done we decided it was the right frequency all along.

Sell:

When did you come to that conclusion?

Ryder:

Why did we pick 10,000? Boast did some calculating of inductors. He went back to the fundamentals of inductors, skin effect, proximity effect between the wires and the coils and so forth. It began to look like we could strand our wires and get rid of eddy currents and we could spread them apart enough so that the proximity effect didn’t crowd the currents too much in certain regions of the conductor. It also began to look like 10,000 was the place to get a high enough Q that the errors due to the resistance of inductors would be much less than 1%. That’s what we were shooting for and it turned out to be that later. But he designed a lot of air core coils for this. We hired a technician to do the work, we bought some machinery, and we set up the first six generator network analyzer. I had to design the electronics of the generators.

We did something else; you had to pick your base voltage and your base current or what was going to be unit voltage and what was going to be unit current which by multiplying factors you could relate back to the system. I think we made a very smart decision there, we picked ten volts and a tenth of an ampere. A tenth of an ampere was consistent with the outputs of vacuum tube generators or oscillators and the ten volts meant that we had a system impedance of 100 ohms. This was a remarkable choice to cut down electromagnetic interference between the different circuits. Impedance was low enough electromagnetically that you couldn’t induce very much voltage in another wire near you somewhere.

So we picked those, I designed the oscillators and amplifiers to serve as generators. I designed electronic volt meters and we even designed the 10,000 hertz electronic watt meter using existing watt meter movement. We made it work at 10,000 by compensating it like mad and then we designed a phase meter for 10,000 hertz, which in those days with vacuum tube diodes was not too easy to do. It used clipping and much the techniques they use today. We got to within a degree on phase. So the thing worked, the power companies liked it, and they financed a further enlargement of it to a major installation which in 1948 was moved to an EE building there and served until the last ten years.

And as a result of it, Dr. Boast has told me, in recent years Iowa State has had more doctorates in the utility industry than any other university in the country. So that shows what can be done in developing an industry relationship through some new idea. Later on, in 1949 after I went to the University of Illinois as head of the EE department, we built another 10,000 hertz generator.

Relationship Between Universities and Industry

Sell:

Let's pursue just a little bit this relationship between an academic department and industry. You feel that given this was an experiment station project, it was perfectly appropriate that utilities as government-regulated industry, were an appropriate research project.

Ryder:

Oh, yes. Very definitely. I have always felt that a state supported university has definite responsibilities to industry, particularly to industry in its state, but to industry in general. It’s supported on tax money. In my own personal life I had always refused to accept consulting fees from a company in my own state and where I could help I’d help. I don’t think I have ever violated that in consulting, I did take expenses once for a court case, but a state university has special responsibilities.

Sell:

That a private university doesn’t offer.

Ryder:

A private university doesn’t have to if it doesn’t want to. At the same time the state universities have limits which have been violated in many cases, I think, in respect to classified contracts and things like that. Except in time of war. They should have stayed much clearer of these types of contracts. At the end of my tenure at Iowa State in 1947 and 1948, I was a member of a two-man committee to design a new electrical engineering building which we introduced. We thought we would rather deal with novel ideas, especially those affecting student environment. In the process of designing and constructing the Iowa State high-frequency network analyzer, Dr. Boast transferred his interests from illuminating engineering — which was never a very strong field — to power and electronics, showing the value of having a doctorate in a fairly fundamental field. He and I were a good choice to do this job because he is a methodical person, whereas I tend to leapfrog. I would go from A to Q, knowing that somehow I would get there, and he would make me sit down and sketch out the intervening steps to get to Q. And so the two of us worked together very well.

Sell:

I can see that would be an excellent blend.

Ryder:

Yes.

Electrical Engineering Building

Sell:

And of course it was in a joint authorship with professor Boast.

Ryder:

We wrote several papers.

Sell:

"The Functional Designs of Buildings for Electrical Engineers."

Ryder:

That’s right. This came because we had worked together and we were given responsibility to work with the architects in the design of this electrical engineering building. We wanted to produce a good academic environment for the students.

Sell:

You stated in the article that as a guiding philosophy in the design of buildings for engineering education, a list of four freedoms was proposed. You might want to comment on them. I’ll just list them. Freedom from interfering influences, freedom for logical layout, freedom for flexibility and freedom from uneconomic design.

Ryder:

Well, the first three of course bear directly on the educational process. The fourth is always a concern in academic building; you never have enough dollars. There are two kinds of architects: there is the kind that when you ask for something they say, “Well, you can’t afford that.” Then the other kind will say, “Well, I don’t know, but we’ll study it.” Usually when they get done with their study they have got something better than you proposed. You have to be careful of these two kinds of architects. If you are stuck with the refusal kind you're in trouble unless you really go to fight. We were fortunate in having some architects there who had academic building experience and knew how to get the job done. We mainly introduced rather high windows in the classrooms and laboratories so that the blond out on the sidewalk wouldn’t distract the students. And of course today you'd worry that the football star out on the sidewalk would distract the students. We had a wide use of color in the building and a logical layout of laboratory spaces so that you would effectively utilize square footage in a laboratory. The ideal is an infinitely long zero width laboratory because the more wall space you can get, the more services you can supply to your test tables. The test table out in the middle of the square room is worthless because if you do supply services they come through conduits on the floor and you’re forever nailed down to that location. But if you're supplying your services from the wall you can change things as you wish.

Sell:

You also recommended module units for wall structures and the like.

Ryder:

Well this sort of thing is a matter of cost and saving.

Sell:

But didn’t the fact that you were running conduits on particular walls present a problem for the modular division of space?

Ryder:

No. These laboratories were mostly designed in pairs with an instrument room or a storage room between them that, considered both ways, would have equipment in the storage room to supply both laboratories. You might have an elementary circuits lab and an advanced circuits lab or a circuits lab and a transmission line lab with similar types of equipment and you supply both of them out of the same room. So the modular supply circuitry for two labs are about the same. We made one bad mistake in designing a rather comprehensive machinery laboratory in 1948. We should have known then that those things were dead, and in actual fact it was never instrumented with more than just one small row of machines. Some of the space has been given over to computer works. So we admit to a mistake but we made the room high enough so they could run a second floor. One of the architects said, “If you are going to have a room that big it had better be so high.”

University of Illinois

Sell:

Now you left Iowa in 1949 and were named head of the department of electrical engineering at the University of Illinois in 1949. Was this appointment as head of the department a commitment to the electronics on the part of the University of Illinois or of some sector of the administration?

Ryder:

No. The University of Illinois prior to the war had been a very power oriented but let’s just say a good department. But it was not up to date. Right at the end of the war they hired my former professor Bill Everitt from Ohio State. In 1949 their dean retired and Everitt moved across the street to the dean’s office. So he pointed to me and said, "Come hither," so I went. In July of 1949, I was in Champaign Urbana, in a building which was less than a year old. This furnished a contrast because at Iowa State in 1943 this then department head, Cooper, had sent Boast, the head of the architecture department and me on a visit to eastern schools' new buildings. So we saw a lot of things we didn't want to do, and a few things we did. Well, right after the war in preparing for their new building, Illinois had sent a three-man committee to many of the same schools but they didn't send an architect. So the committee missed a lot of things in these schools that we saw and had some things they didn't want as a result. They could have ruled them out if they had seen them.

Sell:

Do you recall who the architect was at the time?

Ryder:

He was named Kimble, and was head of the architecture in the architectural engineering department at Iowa State. But he brought in another view from the other side of the coin which Illinois didn't do. Illinois simply missed a lot of details. They had some architects from Chicago who had never built an academic building before and made some mistakes. It's a good building, it has been added to, it has 200,000 sq. feet by now. It's a big building but it could have been a better building. And they went off the deep end and reserved a great big machinery laboratory in 1948, too. So, in other words, the war didn't tell everybody the story. The machinery laboratory had to go over to Michigan State, where I got some comrades on what should have been done. Illinois was a strong department in terms of personnel. I felt that it needed some integration, pulling together people in courses, making people work together a little better.

Sell:

Tighter ship.

Ryder:

Tighter ship. It had an excellent research group and had lots of air force and army contracts in the fields of Magnetrons, Klystrons antennas, things of that nature. There was a strong division between the research people and the academic people within the department. The research people did of course have graduate teaching and graduate students. The academic faculty except for a few who were partly research, didn't have very many graduate students.

Sell:

This division between the research and academic sectors of the department, is this part of what you are talking about as far as pulling closer together?

Ryder:

Yes, I wanted greater integration between the research people and the academic people, and a greater awareness among the academic people of what professor X in the next office is doing and teaching in his courses. That way I could take my course and tie it in with his. I think we have made some progress in that direction. I was only there for five years. As I said, earlier we built another high-frequency analyzer there and got good cooperation with the Illinois power companies.

Sell:

Did they approach you?

Ryder:

No. I had a couple of professors who were all ready to go. They had the contacts and wanted to build this thing. So, I did some of the design work for them, mainly aesthetic design, fancy modern wood desks and things like that and we had the shop personnel to turn them up.

Sell:

Does it still exist?

Ryder:

No. Dismantled. It was an interesting university in that the department heads had a great amount of autonomy. I had a sizable budget and really couldn't complain too much about the amount of money, which was always adequate although if you wanted more you couldn't get it. Relations with the other departments were friendly but everybody was running his own show during that time.

Sell:

Did everybody have a similar budget according to needs?

Ryder:

Yes. The University of Illinois was very well supported by the state. We had this research budget and we had part of the overhead funds from the research. The university accounting office unfortunately took off quite a chunk, yet we had to have our own bookkeepers to keep track of where we were.

Sell:

What was the chunk?

Ryder:

About 30%. We had an initial electrical engineering course for the sophomore year which was unfortunately scheduled in parallel with the semester of physics which also covered electricity. I had complaints from my teachers in that field that the students were bothered by this, that we were using the MKS system of units and the physics department didn't know what system of units it was using. The students would see the same expression for an electric field but with a different set of constants in it. So ours was right and the physics department was wrong. After all, these were sophomores. It finally got so bad that we wanted relief somehow. The physics department head was rather to difficult to deal with and..

Sell:

Was everyone, or was the problem within the electrical engineering department?

Ryder:

This was electrical engineering and physics. The physics department head was a little difficult to deal with.

Sell:

Was his interaction with you something born of the antagonistic relationship between.

Ryder:

Between physics and electrical engineering. There was more to it than that. We wanted relief, we wanted to have them teach consistently. The bad thing really was the parallel scheduling of the two courses covering the same ground pretty closely. This required a political effort, so I let the grapevine know we were thinking about dropping our students out of that semester of physics. You have to realize that physics departments across the country except for an occasional lecture, support a lot of graduate students and teaching sections of this engineering physics. In threatening to drop my students I was dropping a lot of credit hours from the physics department, which meant stipends for graduate assistants and thus a sizable piece of the physics graduate program. Within two hours after I had let a member of the physics department know we were thinking about this, the physics department head and I were in the dean's office.

Sell:

He requested the meeting?

Ryder:

He requested the meeting with the dean. I could have had anything I wanted. They would teach this course with any system units that we wanted. After all, they didn't know what system they were using anyway and it didn't make any difference to them. They would do anything we wanted as long as we didn't drop the course. Well, that was my point really. I didn't have any hope in getting out of it completely. So, they did come around and decided that maybe the MKS system had some value. I don't know where they found a physics book for that day, but this was the physics atmosphere. They were doing some fine work in solid state, excellent research, but this sophomore physics for engineers or freshmen physics for engineers always causes this kind of trouble — particularly for electrical engineering. This is because we start in the same place with the fundamental experimental law. But on the whole the University of Illinois departments were doing a good job.

Michigan State University

Problems with Engineering Department

Ryder:

In the winter of 1954, I was offered the deanship at Michigan State University and was told that it was not a very good place. But I was very well impressed with President John Hannah who had built Michigan State from nothing up to something. Unfortunately, he hadn't been blessed with too progressive an engineering staff.

Sell:

Too progressive?

Ryder:

Yeah. It was not progressive enough. I knew that I was going to have problems in that, and did later on in trying to bring their program up to a 1954 level. In July of that year I went to East Lansing and enjoyed working with John Hannah. He was a very excellent university president except that my predecessors had run engineering on a skimpy budget. So he wasn't used to the idea that engineering was going to cost money. So even to this day it is not as well supported as it ought to be. There were problems: outdated curriculum, a horribly outdated engineering building which took us eight years to get out of.

Sell:

Was this why one of your articles implied that heads of engineering departments often make the mistake of getting the job done and as a result you often end up with the barn or shed out by the power plants?

Ryder:

Yes. At that time just before the war, the Depression years, engineering deans made many mistakes because they couldn't get a building so they would take anything that was given. But if a dean of a medical school couldn't get a new hospital he wouldn't take anything. As a result, around the country you could look for the smokestack on the campus and look for a building close to the smokestack with an antenna on top and that would be EE. There is even one Canadian school where the EE department was right in the power plant building. The theory was that this power plant is an engineering machine and the students can both test things there and help run the power plant.

Sell:

Play with it.

Ryder:

Of course this is impossible. If you are going to heat this campus in the winter time, you are not going to shut it down to run an engineering test. So it was completely fallacious, but these deans accepted anything they could get including an extension arm to those buildings that looked like sheds. I had a couple of those and there was even a department down in the sub-basement that was occasionally flooded. This was just not professional engineering education. You actually couldn't move too much until you had, through retirement or other means, changed a few department heads, getting department heads with postwar outlooks and with doctorate degrees, which the preceding people had largely not had. I was told that I was picked for the job because administration felt the electrical engineering department was worse than any other department. An electrical engineering dean could probably help them most and so I brought in some manpower for electrical engineering. I was faced with the problem of an over-inflated staff and budget in mechanical engineering. This was perhaps somewhat justified with the automotive industry, but I also felt that it was somewhat justified by the fact that my predecessor had been a heating and vent man. So it meant reducing mechanical engineering. Anytime you start to shrink academic departments you are in trouble because you've got tenured faculty.

Sell:

I am sure this was not one of your initial projects?

Ryder:

No. But it had to be done because I had some threats from ECPD about accreditation. I went there in 1954 and we were up for inspection in the spring of 1955. I had been told some things and so some of these changes had to be made rather fast. I got everything accredited in 1955 mostly on promises, and was successful in getting a chemical engineering department accredited for the first time in its history. This too was largely on promises because they had a bad faculty situation in that department.

Sell:

A weak faculty?

Ryder:

Anytime you have a staff of seven and five of them had been department heads at one time or another, you have got troubles. I brought in two or three young Ph.D.s and one older man in electrical engineering and these fellows proceeded to turn electrical engineering around.

Sell:

Did you leave Everitt at Illinois?

Ryder:

He retired only about four or five years ago, I guess. I was succeeded at Illinois by Ed Jordan, antenna man, who has just retired this past year.

Sell:

You were talking about the faculty staffing in electrical engineering.

Departmental Consolidation

Ryder:

Well one of these young fellows was in the machine systems area and he started to develop a miniature-machine laboratory. We had had a machine standing three to four feet high, and students had a machine running a machine half way across the lab. With these miniature-machines, which were the size of eight horse power motors and maybe five inches in diameter, you could put the whole system right on the bench top. After the war there was auxiliary gearing and boards to mount these things on and we developed a torque meter which let us measure shaft torque, which had never been done before. He introduced the idea of miniature laboratories, which went over great guns and were adopted across the country. The other department heads saw what was being done. Previously, I had the civils arguing: You can't model a bridge, how do you a model a riveted joint? Well I pointed out he did rivet joints anyway. But pretty soon I discovered here was a six foot long bridge made out of aluminum sections in this instructor's laboratory with regular joints, so they were going to model too. So this infected the whole college and the chemical engineers they went in for glass miniature equipment where you could see the liquid boiling in the tube, and you could see what was actually going on. This paid off then when we came to design a new engineering building in 1960 because the electricals, instead of 10,000 square feet, they got along with six hundred square feet for their machinery laboratory. The other departments were corresponding so that we didn't have to use a lot of square footage for laboratories.

Also, I think over the years laboratory had less importance as we went into more abstract forms of engineering educations. I think schools have realized that they can't duplicate industry because things are too big and too expensive. This is demonstrated by the high voltage laboratories that were always built at schools before the war. In 1929 I saw the Ohio brass laboratory: outdoor, three million dollars, no school could afford that. After the war Fred Terman asked me if I could use a high voltage lab, because he had one he would give away. What could you do with it? You cannot compete with the millions of dollars industry puts in some of these things. So our small-scale development was appropriate to the day, saving money, saving space, and the students appeared to be much more interested because they could see the whole thing there in front of them. It was built right then, and I told the president that we had to have relief while they were going to get some next year. That's about the usual speed since 1962 until now, fifteen years. There's value in putting the college all in one building, too. It used to be the pattern if you had ten departments that you had ten buildings. Ten departments is too much for a dean to handle, but there are some schools with fifteen and seventeen departments. I think we will see retreats from these multitudinous colleges and we'll see consolidation. The mechanics people are concerned because they are really a part of civil engineering and my ECPD accreditation at one time criticized me for that. My predecessor in 1950 had split the mechanics department off the civil engineering department, and in 1950 set up a mechanics department. In 1900, this would have been an appropriate move.

In 1954 the ECPD inspection said, "Your civil engineering department is too highly applied." It split the theoretical mechanics people off, so what was left? Sure they were applied. I would have liked to put it back together but I had two department heads and only needed one. So I brought back some more theoretical people in civil and had some duplications. In Illinois, we had a strong theoretical civil department and a strong theoretical and applied mechanics department. We didn't need both of them. They could have been tied together in one department but history had done this.

Sell:

Apart from the economics of duplication and having buildings for every department, you also had the very interesting question of the intellectual relationships between divisions and disciplines.

Ryder:

That is a very good point. This is the big advantage we found in the one building. Fortunately I was able to keep the space clear as a faculty lounge. Nobody in the administration building said, "What are you going to use that space for?" So we had coffee together and the civils discovered that the electricals had the same problem and they spoke nearly the same language with a few translations. The mechanics people or whatnot, they had coffee together. Or they walked down the hall and saw this going on in the laboratory because we had big windows between the hall and laboratories. They discovered that interesting things went on in these other departments that in separate buildings they would never know, so putting things together had great advantages in integrating your college.

Sell:

For what purpose, for cross fertilization?

Ryder:

For cross fertilization, and in eliminating duplication. So they'll sit down with the other professor with the right attitude and work out how can they profit from what one fellow is doing.

Unity of Engineering and Science

Sell:

Are you of the opinion then that in an ultimate sense all engineering is interdependent? Is there a unity to technological knowledge? And that perhaps it might be a question of relative advancement, relative progressiveness?

Ryder:

I agree substantially to your first statement, that there is a unity throughout. The way engineering education has developed in terms of these named, professionally-related departments is not very applicable today. Take for example, a high school student. He has no idea what a civil engineer does or an electrical engineer does. He doesn't know what the field means, so his father who may be an engineer, maybe not, or his high school teacher, who doesn't really know much about it, tries to explain it to him and he becomes a civil engineer, later discovering that's not what he wanted at all. These departments are pre-1900 in the way they were established, and today it seems to me that the important thing is how the subject matter might be divided. You can rank our various departmental disciplines as I often did for new students in terms of the mathematics proficiency requirement. This is because the student is coming as a freshman. He knows whether he's unhappy with the math book, and if he is going to avoid math he wants to know where he should go. Frequently I would rank the departments in terms of the use of mathematics to help the kids. Well, this is one way to look at it. The other way is simply to divide up the technical areas: materials, heat and thermodynamics, electricity, environment. You can pick a number of those things, and you will find that of the new engineering schools established in the last 20 years there have been several who have departmentalized on just that basis rather than in terms of professional fields. Now this disturbs a professional society to no end, because they have had an automatic channel.

Sell:

They are breaking up their constituents.

Ryder:

Yes. They are breaking up their contacts, breaking up their faculties that they felt comfortable with. But this is how we must anticipate an organization that's more natural in terms of the subject matter and in terms of the student finding a field of interest.

Sell:

But it's stretching the point to extend this also to science departments.

Ryder:

I think science departments are more nearly on subject matter anyway. In other words, chemistry is chemistry, physics is physics, mathematics is mathematics. They have professional societies because they have departments, not professional societies which exist because they were set up years ago and maybe no longer reflect the real divisions in the field.

Sell:

But in terms of unity of the knowledge base throughout engineering disciplines, can you push that idea also as far as a unity that would unite the sciences with engineering?

Ryder:

Oh yes. I see no reason why we need a department of physics today except for fundamental particle research, in other words, matter. What is matter? You certainly don't have much concern in a modern physics department with heat, or with electricity, and certainly nothing with mechanics. The basic work in these fields that used to be called "classical physics" is today being done in engineering departments. The research is being done there and I challenged the physics section of the ASEE a number of years ago on just this point. Where was their research in these fields if they were so proud of the teaching they were doing? And weren't they using their graduate assistants as teachers? One of the physicists got up afterwards and said, "This man is right. He's challenging our budgets. That's what you are hanging on to, not the subject matter." It was a graduate budget because those departments by and large are not doing the research in those fields. It used to be called "classical physics."

Computer Lab at Michigan

Ryder:

In mathematics, there is a nice situation with the respect to the computer. There is a rule of thumb around the country that if you, as a university president, put the computer in the math department, it's dead. Mathematicians don't care about numbers but computers crunch numbers and I could name you schools where this has happened. If you want a computer you put it with one of the user areas. At Michigan State this happens to be engineering, which is responsible for the whole computer laboratory. The dean is the chairman of the computer department, he operates the university computer facilities. When I went there four deans visited me. They knew I had been interested in computers at Illinois where we were building the ORDVAC and the ILLIAC, and they said, "Don't you think we ought to have a computer on this campus?" and I said, "Yes, I think we should." Well, he said, "Will you go and talk to the president about it?" They didn't want to go, they wanted me to go and I did. The president leaned back in his chair and he said, "Yes, I think we should have something. You go and tell them what is it going to cost." So it took us six months to come up with a decision, but from that we got our first MSTIC computer in 1956. I hired Dr. Ron Tirsch to build that and to operate it. He is now my successor as dean and head of the computer laboratory. It was a pure accident; they picked on me to be chairman of their committee, that's all. And I guess engineering has done all right with it.

Computer science is a new field which could be put in anywhere, but it has got to be put someplace that finds it friendly. The computer science department at Michigan State came out of EE. There we had a special form of curriculum called "engineering science." Eric Walker, the president of Penn State, once said, "Well that's a liberal science curriculum, in the sense of liberal arts." It gives a student the same sort of freedom across some science fields and engineering as you get in liberal arts across several major and minor fields. This has led to computer science, material science, and an engineering arts program for a student who wants to work in the arts but would like to dabble in engineering. It gives freedom to the curriculum, and any group of professors that wants to make their area important enough to offer a major can have a science program in that field.

Physics, Engineering and Research

Ryder:

In this matter of physics and classical engineering, we ran an experiment with the mechanics beginning course in which physics was used to eliminate the basic general physics course for engineers. We watched groups of students go through without the general physics and some go through with. Essentially they got the same grades whether they took physics or not. Since physics is very repetitious, some students may profit a little bit from the repetition. But if you are mechanics people or beginning electrical people, teach from the beginning and the students are going to perform the same way. Actually, electrical engineering always requires a little dynamics: how a particle moves. In electrical engineering we have variable fields, where in dynamics there is often a constant field — the force of gravity. I used to find the students enjoying it a great deal when they discovered they could use integration. They could use some of their mathematics in a variable field ballistics problem.

Sell:

When you talk about the difference in the need that an engineer brings to his training, the kind of things that he needs to obtain from physics might be different than what a physics student or physics teacher would want to teach. In fact, as a rejoinder to your article published in 1955, "Physics and Engineering: A Problem in Appraisal," Robert Varnay wrote that it is often stated that what is physics today at its forefront will be engineering 25 years hence. He then says this often quoted statement fails to state that it is only the know-how phase of physics that becomes engineering. He then said that what they do in a physics course, which is essentially different than what would be done in an engineering department teaching engineering physics, is that they are interested in imparting an understanding of the natural world rather than simply imparting the know-how or the knowledge that would be necessary...

Ryder:

This statement by Varnay is another way of putting the frequent reaction to my remarks about the value of physics. They say, "Now where will the students get the physics viewpoint?" What he has said is essentially a physics viewpoint. This reflects a lack of basic communications between physics and engineering for 50 years. He would have been perfectly right when I was an undergraduate; where would I have gotten the philosophy of pure science? In other words, science searching for knowledge, science for its own sake. But today the search for knowledge, rather than being done in these classical physics fields is being done in engineering. Our courses start at the beginning; they present the search for pure physics knowledge. In other words, we talk about Faraday's laws and bring out the fact that Faraday was searching for an answer to a problem. Today engineering is no longer the highly applied field that Varnay is talking about. Engineering is science plus the solution of a problem, and this is what the physicist overlooks.

Sell:

Then isn't he satisfied in his research once he finally achieves the level of knowledge necessary to solve the problem?

Ryder:

He may or he may not be.

Sell:

Whereas a physicist wouldn't be.

Ryder:

One could find at Bell Labs that, unless there is an application in the future they wouldn't do much further research.

Sell:

That's generally true, but there are times when there is a bit of flexibility. Also, if it simply fits within the general mission, then it is permitted.

The example I am thinking of is radio astronomy with Penzias and Wilson. The instrument they used was for a specific purpose relative directly to telecommunications, but it was unused for a while and they were permitted to pursue their own interests because it was related to telecommunications in a broad sense.

Ryder:

At the same time, I got the impression that I was able to hire John Bardeen because he had some ideas about surface physics problems that Bell Labs didn't consider directly applicable to the development of further transistor technology. John wanted to pursue it. I ascribed some of this interest to his second Nobel Prize, which was gained at the University of Illinois and not at Bell Labs. Using Bell Labs as an example, they are not as completely free as they maintain nor is General Electric Research Lab as completely free. I know several of my former staff members who went one to the other of these and now have come back to academics.

Sell:

But they also have learned that they can profit very much from giving people the freedom to follow their curiosity. Nine times out of ten the person will just respond to the freedom with a certain amount of responsibility. He recognizes where his pay check is coming from.

Ryder:

With the comparative freedom NSF support gives for instance, an engineer who wants to follow out an idea, will probably get support for this and continue. The trouble is that some of them want to follow out something too far.

Sell:

And then the despair of realizing one's research funds are coming to an end.

Ryder:

This growth in graduate work and in doctorates in the engineering faculties has happened quickly. It has come since 1950 and so we have a lot of young Ph.D.s now having graduate students. They don't have a real thorough understanding of what graduate work in research in engineering colleges is all about. At Michigan State I met a two-year Ph.D. who was with a very well established, excellent electronics and communications company. He was very disappointed that in those whole two years his company had never given him an opportunity to continue developing his doctorate thesis. Many of these kids are taught that they are specialists on a narrow piece of knowledge that led to their doctorate, and that they ought to keep on going. They don't understand that a doctorate is actually preparation not just for research in that field, but preparation in any field in which we have no answers. This fellow seemed much happier when I told him, "They have given you problems that have been tough, haven't they? That's what you were trained for, to tackle such problems. They didn't hire you because you knew all about photoelectric cells under certain conditions."

Sociology and History of Engineering

Sell:

I think of the now-developing field of sociology of science, particularly those aspects of sociology of science concerned with the knowledge base. This could be imparted. It seems that the new Ph.D.s are not being informed that they are in their training even though they are put on a specific research topic or research problem and directed in a special way. They can then make use of this every time they come to a problem, provided their research topics put them on to a diverse variety of problems.

Ryder:

In the last few years I have been impressed by papers offered at engineering conferences by psychologists or sociologists. These examine problems in teaching, problems in grading, problems in the mentalities of students. Back in the 1930s, they were always concerned that the engineers talk to the other fellow. Now we are getting the other fellow to come talk to us.

Sell:

As a teacher and an author you attempt to draw upon history as often as you can. Do you feel the engineering student could usefully draw upon other disciplines such as psychology and sociology?

Ryder:

The use of history of the field is indeed very important.

Sell:

In what way?

Ryder:

Well, it used to be that we expected engineering teachers to have practical experience. As we go back more to our fundamentals, people aren't going to relate to the size of the biggest bridge or the largest motor they have seen. They will relate more to what Faraday did or Ohm. This goes back to the history of the field rather than to the current practice in the field, and requires the instructor to have knowledge of history to know what was happening in the world at the time of some of these developments. A lot depends on teachers having interest in the history of the field, or on young teachers who have been given a little of this viewpoint. I always try to at least give the dates that Faraday or Ampere or Oersted lived so that the students have a little bit of a reference. In chapter references I usually like to give the date and citation for the original paper.

Sell:

In a student's career, he is what might be referred to as having a presentist and futurist orientation. Does he have a use for the past in his career?

Ryder:

He will have broader understanding about engineering as an experimental science. The whole thing is a question of the breadth of the engineering curriculum and our students today don't come to us narrowly-oriented like they used to, if they are permitted by their universities to spread out. The engineering student today is pretty broad if he is at a university which provides him with these opportunities.

Status of Academic Engineering

Ryder:

There are many schools that are very technically oriented, where the college of engineering is set off by itself somehow, or where the student doesn't have contact with students in the other types of work on campus. But if you have students mixed up and living in dormitories, perhaps an electrical engineering student and the physics student next door will talk together and decide that ten years after graduation they are going to have essentially the same sort of job and probably be making about the same amount of money. Why should the engineering student take fifteen percent more credit hours to get to the same place? If he is any good, he may transfer to physics. Engineering should reduce itself on the same footing, should reduce its credit hours to the level of the rest of the university so students will choose their career fields on the quality of the program and not on the quantity of credit hours. In many schools with heavy engineering programs, the student doesn't have a chance to take a course in philosophy or psychology or business. This was another change we got through the faculty at Michigan State with surprising ease. I suggested that department heads go back to their faculties and produce a curriculum with 180 quarter credits, (120 semester credits, liberal arts level). When they came in, surprisingly, they all had been approved by the departmental curriculum committees. They were interested in trying it because I had data showing that three parts of the better students as juniors were leaving us and going to physics and chemistry and mathematics. After we reduced to the same curriculum level, we began getting equivalent numbers transferring in. The decision is now on the program, not on the credit hours. Industry in the ECPD praised that decision.

Sell:

That success refutes the argument that students would migrate from engineering to physics because physics was more interesting.

Ryder:

It wasn't true. They saw the equivalency. At Michigan State we had 23,000 students living on the campus, and at one time engineering offered its own dorm. My department heads turned it down, quite rightly. We did not want our students segregated; we wanted them to get acquainted and discover that this fellow taking accounting was a person too. Then, the admissions office head told me what I already knew, that I had a lousy freshman counseling operation. Finally, it got so bad that one day I settled the whole thing by calling up the department of personnel and guidance in the college of education. I asked the head to send over his Ph.D. candidate, who wanted a job. I hired this fellow to handle the freshman advising with the understanding that he keep working through his doctorate in guidance but was going to work for us for full time. This worked so well that the department head started coming in and said, "Can't we have one of these, too, instead of "Professor Q" down the hall?"

They were personnel problems, study problems, things of this nature. When technical questions arose, the guidance counselor went down and talked to a professor about it. Then when the question arose again, the guidance counselor knew the answer.

I had a crew of people in the college who were concerned not with the technical material, but concerned with the students. So when I had student problems, I had people interested in it to talk to, to get advice from, or to carry out jobs for me. I justified all of this by pointing out that before this new fellow was full-time, he was going to be earning less than four quarter times of a full professor. Now we have an associate dean who is responsible for student records and student advising and everything else. When Mom and Pop bring junior in to look over an engineering school, he is the person they talk to because he speaks the student's language.

Sell:

In a current innovation, engineering faculties bring in people concerned with things like ethical issues in engineering, bringing them into the faculty. Do you see this as useful?

Ryder:

It would be very useful if you've got the budget. It's going to be increasingly hard to justify a dividend type of operation like this as budgets get tighter. At Michigan State such a person would be welcomed by the engineering faculty. We would be glad to have him, but haven't even had money for much in the way of visiting professors. The budget never has been big enough. Illinois has enough to have visiting professors there all the time. There is a whole new attitude in engineering faculties concerning the relations to the rest of their universities. MIT is having to build a university around itself. Case could no longer live by itself. It would have had to build the university around itself to attract the kind of engineering students who were interested in some of these other fields. And so the Case Western Reserve merger was necessary, and not because Case was broke.

Sell:

Do you think the free standing technical institute is a permanent thing of the past?

Ryder:

Yes. Free standing institutes of technology will have to become universities; they have got to build. There are still too many schools with 216 quarter credits when the rest of the university has 180. These requirements came from a day when engineering thought it had to teach a lot of shop work. Drawing partly eliminated shop work, and the drawing is now all but gone, but they didn't eliminate the credit hours.

Sell:

I often wonder if this is also due to the nature of the engineer's personality.

Ryder:

I think so.

Sell:

Adding the credit hours or maintaining the large credit hours assumes that you have to teach all of the specific innovations. But as you pointed out in many of your writings, this is simply not the case. All of these new devices and developments can be related back to the fundamentals again.

Ryder:

Engineering is teaching students, training students, orienting their minds to get the data, to get the facts, to apply the natural laws, to come up with a solution to the problem. The problem may be very broad, very fundamental or it may be very specific but it's developing your material focused on a problem. As soon as electrical started into new fields after the war, where did we go? We had to teach these human brains to solve problems that had never been solved before. You are not teaching new material; you are teaching how to solve problems, and with all this new material you have got examples to teach them.

IRE/AIEE

IRE President

Sell:

When you were at the University of Illinois, you began to become more involved with professional society activities?

Ryder:

Yes. Illinois was interested in the National Electronics Conference in Chicago, and I was the Illinois representative to that body for awhile. In 1952 some of my friends elected me as a director-at-large of the IRE. So, I became a spokesman for education on the IRE board. In the fall of 1954 I was elected as president of the IRE. It was understood that the person asked to be toastmaster at the Rochester Fall Conference Banquet was the one being considered for the presidency of the IRE. If anybody objected they'd better get their word in during the conversation because the nominations committee was about to act. Well I was asked to be toastmaster at the Rochester Fall Meeting and I was asked to be toastmaster at the IRE's spring convention. So I passed the test and I was elected for president of 1955. The IRE presidents were often ten or more years younger than AIEE presidents. This has been pointed out frequently. It seemed to be the general philosophy in the AIEE to reward past service, which meant of course to get the past service you had to be older. I think some of the differences in the two organizations are ascribable to two different philosophies. I was chosen to be president because there were those on the board who felt our relations with the colleges and the students had to be improved, and that I could do it.

It was an interesting year; I traveled about 85,000 miles. At that time we had a Tokyo section which I didn't reach until some years later. I covered all the new sections established during the year and some of the new student branches. We got the student quarterly firmly established. The junior past president and the senior past president continue on the board, so after I was president for one year, I was automatically on the board through 1956 and 1957.

Editorial Board and Merger

Ryder:

In 1958 I was appointed to be editor and chairman of the editorial board, which then included the proceedings of the IRE and thirty-odd technical group publications. I was editor in 1959, and this was clearly far beyond the level of helping select papers; it was mostly policy and management questions. The scopes of the different professional groups conflicted sometimes, and they would fight about who should publish what paper. The editorial board had to resolve some of these things. More importantly, since the board was composed of about a half dozen top scientific people in the country, it could say, "Such and such field is developing pretty fast. About a year from now I think there will be enough material there that we will have a special issue." This would alert the editor and professional staff. This editorial board had people of real stature; they could see these new fields coming and decide when the special issue on a particular topic would be appropriate, when there would be material, and who should be editor.

Sell:

Did you come across any particular problems relating to industries with publishing policies you thought a bit rigid?

Ryder:

I had had trouble with that when I was with Bailey Meter. I was not allowed to publish with respect to this analog computer for processing gasoline. That led to my later leaving the company. It was purely company politics. As a whole, it was relatively easy to get permission to publish even though the patents were filed and all the coverage was in. This happened, but not enough to really inhibit because the fields were moving so fast. If one company refused to let a man write, he went to the competitor and got the paper. The company knew this, so this freed things up quite a bit.

Sell:

Did this occur often?

Ryder:

Not too often.

Sell:

You didn't have to arm twist?

Ryder:

No. But it could be done because there was enough competition in the field.

Sell:

The more competition in the field, the more strength you have in dealing with the industrial policy.

Ryder:

It wasn't a major concern at all. You could usually identify your editor in chief for that issue and he would start identifying authors and assigning topics. This meant you were soliciting papers.

Sell:

Perhaps we can talk about the editorship in the IEEE in 1963.

Ryder:

Let me go back to one of the problems that arose as editor in 1958 and 1959. Executive secretary, George Bailey kept a very tight reign on finances. Most of that time the IRE was in the black because of advertising and dramatically increasing membership. George would watch this, and come August, perhaps the advertising budget hadn't quite reached target. First he would go after Will Cock, who was the commission merchant on advertising. He would go after Will first, and Will would resign. The next day we'd rehire him. Then George would come to me as editor and say, "We've got to cut some pages." He and I would go around and plan to cut some pages, because in a professional society there is only one place you can cut the budget, and that is publication. George would be happy, and at the end of the year he had his profit. Until that time, our journal had the editorial matter in one piece and the advertising entirely separate. In binding, you could eliminate the advertising and just keep the editorial material. The advertisers didn't care for this; they liked to have editorial material interwoven so readers would see their ads. One year advertising was down a little, so George and I decided that items of only temporal interest, such as institute news, would be interwoven in some of the advertising pages. That was a profound change because it was inconsistent with professional journals as a whole. A professional journal that made money was inconsistent, too. I mention this because this has been a part of Spectrum from the very beginning. We wanted that because I felt all along that the advertising in these journals was often as educational as some of the technical material, or more so. George and I got along very well; we never did have a scrap, but it was an understanding that Will Cock would resign once or twice a year from the advertising. He was a marvelous salesman because he wouldn't take "no" and he could be kicked out of our offices and be back the next day for his ad.

Sell:

When the merger occurred and you were chosen as the first IEEE editor did the very fact of the merger create a situation which allowed for ease of introducing innovations? Were there any at that point?

Ryder:

Yes. You'll find this in a paper I wrote in Spectrum called "The Genesis of An Editorial Policy." But to answer your question specifically, I don't know whether the merger made things easier to introduce new ideas or whether Woody and I just went ahead and did them. We, the editorial board, were given the responsibility of coming up with a policy and answering certain questions for the new society. We settled on a new all member journal, we settled on the title Spectrum and then Woody and I put our heads together and plotted. We were going to have an IEEE Scientific American, that was our target. We were going to use color, which was unheard of in technical magazines. We hired an art editor so we could have color covers and could use color and proper layouts of curves and photographs in our articles. We hired a technical writer, Gordon Friedlander. Woody and I don't remember asking anybody; we just sat down and did it and told the general manager Don Fink what we were doing. Don, with his editorial experience, saw the value of the input and covered the budget for it.

Sell:

Of course, Scientific American has always had an editorial policy saying if an article can be written about a subject, then it can be written in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and interesting to the audience. Did you also insert this sort of an idea in Spectrum from the beginning?

Ryder:

Yes.

Sell:

So that it was appealing to the audience.

Ryder:

And I think our choice of Gordon Friedlander carried that out. I know his series of articles on the railroad systems in Europe received all kinds of compliments. When we started out, some of the power people knew me as the high frequency man, although I first dealt with the power thyratrons. Because I was high frequency, I was identified as a radio man, and there was criticism: "You are going to kill off our magazine and turn it over to this man Ryder." There was criticism and there were letters published in Spectrum. A year later, several letters said they were happy that the magazine was in our hands. It was a complex situation because pre-merger, the AIEE had Electrical Engineering and three technical interest magazines. Because of all those magazines, Proceedings was the only one that wasn't subsidized. The new society didn't start out with great big money bags, so the budget was a worry. Of course now Proceedings is subsidized; it doesn't have any advertising except for the institutional advertising. Spectrum is not making money but it's doing very well. The problem with Spectrum of course is that its editorial page budget has been cut year after year. I am concerned that the money is being drained off for other activities.

Thymotrol Patent Case

Sell:

You have also had extensive experience in working with government bodies, agencies, and as well?

Ryder:

Yes. While I was in Illinois a couple of young Chicago attorneys asked me to help them as a technical witness. Their father, a civil engineer who designed O'Hare Airport was suing the General Electric Company for $25 million for violation of his patent, which he claimed covered the device known as a "thymotrol."

Sell:

Who was the engineer? Do you recall his name?

Ryder:

I'll give it to you pretty soon. This is a device for controlling the speed and acceleration and load current of motors and machine tools. The $25 million figure was based on the General Electric sales for these devices during the war. To me it was obvious that the old man had invented the “thymotrol." The patents were very clear on the point, but General Electric wasn't about to pay this amount of money. So I spent several days in Chicago after having done some work in our laboratory where we had one of these thymotrol devices. I was cross-examined by one of the General Electric attorneys. The matter finally revolved around whether the inventor had taken his patent papers to the notary to get them notarized or whether he sent them across the street by clerk. Then he had to admit he had sent them across the street with the clerk, and he lost his case and was dead within a year. But it was interesting because this “thymotrol" was a well- known electronic device and because I learned a lot of legal things. The chief attorney for the General Electric Company was, I was told, the foremost man in the United States for cross-examination. After I was done with my testimony, he and I were talking, and he said, "As we say in the legal profession: if the facts are on your side, play on the facts. If the facts aren't for you but the law is on your side, play on the law. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, play on the personalities."

Army and Signal Corps

After that I was appointed to the Army Scientific Advisory Panel, an advisory research group to the Army high command. We visited various army engineering and research installations and proposed the treatment of various problems as presented to us. Much of this, of course, was classified. I was also on the Signal Corps Research and Development Advisory Board, where we served much in the same capacity. This involved some interesting trips to several of the Signal Corps bases, and an opportunity to get acquainted with military personnel. A few years later, I was appointed by then Army Secretary Star as his representative to a board surveying the army school system except West Point. Of course, no one touches West Point. He later said I was very helpful with my report to him on what I learned about the army school system.

Sell:

There was one that you failed to mention. You were advisor to the National Research Council?

Ryder:

No.

Sell:

Office of Ordinance research in 1955?

Other Patent Cases

Ryder:

I don't remember. I was in a court case in Raleigh within the Federal Eastern District Court in Michigan. It involved a Michigan company which was one of the chief processors of navy beans in the state. Michigan produces about 85% of the navy beans in the country. These are photoelectrically sorted to throw out the stones and discolored beans. A Philadelphia firm has been producing sorting machines since the early 1900s to do the same thing. The Michigan company went to this firm in Philadelphia and hired away a young technician to come out and build some machines for them. Our agriculture engineering department was asked "to supply somebody who could help them and be a technical witness." So it was arranged that I go see their machines and see the early machines and then be prepared to discuss them in court. On the day I was called in court, the judge looks around the court room and says, "Is Dr. Ryder in the house?" I stood up and he said, "I am going to ask you to come up here and sit on the bench with me. You are going to be my friend." I had gone up there with one extra shirt, expecting to stay there only one day, and I stayed a week. I learned a great deal about lawyers and court procedure, because the judge would lean over and say, "Now you watch this attorney. He's digging a hole for himself and in about one minute he's going to fall in." And he would. The plaintiff from Philadelphia was an old Welshman. He wanted to run his own case, so he had gone to Saginaw and got a general practitioner in law.

The Michigan defendant had gone to Detroit and got the best patent attorney in the state. They took this man who had been hired away from Philadelphia and who had, in my opinion, built a much improved machine. The patents were out, so the man was suing on the theft of trade secrets. This general practitioner was taking this young fellow through the RCA tube handbook, page by page. Where did he get acquainted with these facts on this page? Where did he get acquainted with these? He came within one page, which if he had asked the right questions from that final page, I would have told the judge that he won his case. He did not turn over that next page. This G.P. didn't know any electronics, but the next page had a rule on using a tube which was violated in this circuit because they did something else to offset it. Obviously, this young fellow hadn't bought this in Philadelphia, but he wasn't asked. I told the judge about it later and he said, "It wasn't in the testimony. Keep quiet about it. That's it." I wrote some of the judge's opinions for him and it was never challenged that the Michigan company had not violated any trade secrets.

Sell:

We left off with the Sciaky brothers.

Ryder:

The Sciaky brothers at GE. They made big high-power spot-welding machines. General Electric challenged them on patent infringement. The judge asked me to read the court proceedings and advise him on it. General Electric had not made its case and knew it because its sales manager had written customers, offering to cover for them if they were sued for having used this patent infringing machine. Interestingly, the chief GE attorney was the same cross-examiner I had in Chicago. He lost this case.

Sputnik

Sell:

I would like to go back to your role in the Army Scientific Advisory Committee in 1957 to 1959. What kind of enrollment did you have? Was it a highly responsible position? What you were asked to judge?

Ryder:

It was a large panel, twenty to thirty people in all fields of engineering. Some members have since been deputy secretaries of defense or directors of research for defense forces. JPL was represented by a man who was right on top of the space projects. We heard from Werner Von Braun during the Sputnik problem, and I think I could say that if politics had been removed from the situation we could have beaten the Russians by six months, but it was political.

Sell:

Would you want to elaborate on that?

Ryder:

I don't think I should. I will say that we could have beaten them, but prior efforts were not unleashed because of politics. Our panel was more or less the sounding board for new developments. Both the Army and Signal Corps were concerned with lead time during the research cycle. They were continually working on reducing that, and they have been recently criticized because sometimes they were still finishing up research when the first production orders had been put out. That was one way they tried to beat this lead time, because otherwise it took eight to twelve years for engineering development.

Sell:

So the panel was asked to judge feasibility...

Ryder:

And directions of future work. They put on various demonstrations for us; we went to White Sands once for some early ground to air missile tests. We went to Eglin Air Force Base for a fire power demonstration, which was positively awesome. The Signal Corps people went to Fort Machuga, where they demonstrated all the advances in German aircraft and new missiles. They flew over our crowd with a drone airplane that dropped its film package, and in ten minutes we had pictures of ourselves taken from the airplane.

Sell:

Was it made clear to you that feasibility was all you were to judge?

Ryder:

No. They were honestly looking for answers, ways of improving their own operations.

Sell:

Your mission did not involve questions of responsibility and weapons corruption?

Ryder:

No. We were entirely advisory and to some extent a sounding board within the military family.

Sell:

I see. Is this also true for the Signal Corps?

Ryder:

The Signal Corps was a smaller group. We got to know Major General O'Connell, who was the chief signal officer. We got to know some of the officers, and I think we felt a little closer to their problems because we were electrical engineers. That panel was entirely from electrical engineering, IEEE really. We could work together better.

Sell:

Were there any particularly interesting projects that came before that group?

Ryder:

They got us together during the Spring convention, again for sounding-board results. Somebody decided that having everybody in the government in Washington on Inauguration Day was a dangerous situation. As a result, they got the Vice President.

Sell:

Was this a problem for the Signal Corps?

Ryder:

It had occurred to them, so they were ready to deal with it. Always war and problems. The CIA should have dealt with it.

U.S.A.I.D. and International Work

Sell:

And then in 1967 you were a member of the U.S. A.I.D. higher education mission.

Ryder:

Higher education mission to Brazil.

Sell:

How did you come to be included in this?

Ryder:

Through what is called "The Midwest Universities Consortium" which is Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin Universities. It is a consortium of those four schools to take on foreign aid projects on contract. The Big Ten schools with perhaps the exception of Northwestern, which is private, do a lot of academic work that involves the exchange of ideas and methods. These four schools had gotten together as a result of close association and synthetic policy.

When this particular project came along A.I.D, Michigan State, and Wisconsin agreed to undertake it as before. They would be responsible to the consortium and wanted four or five U.S. university professors to spend two years helping the Brazilian ministry of education improve the country's system of higher education.

Sell:

Who requested this of A.I.D.?

Ryder:

The Rio A.I.D. office to Washington. Washington looks to the consortium, "Can you people do this?" Brazil was developing a very large middle-class, which would begin wanting university-level education for their children. So, Michigan State and Wisconsin each supplied two people: the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; J.D. Ryder, dean of engineering of Michigan State University; Henry Hogan, professor of Portuguese at Milwaukee; and John Hunter, an economist at Michigan State. Our wives also went. I was interested primarily because it offered an opportunity to learn Portuguese, and we have always traveled a great deal. The problem was that A.I.D. and the consortium had taken so long that by the time we got there we were in our third minister of education after the man who had signed the contract. All the new minister could think about was that he was going to run for governor of his state and didn't want to stub his toe in any way, so it was easy to do nothing. We were up against Brazilian politics. Looking back, it would have been much better if they had given the contract to a couple of universities down there. After we were there for six months we could have picked the right universities. The contract wasn't realistic. It asked Brazil to produce counterpart people for us, to work part time at $600 a month. These people don't do that; they were doctors and educators and wouldn't take $600 a month to move to Rio. The minister wasn't about to offer more and break any civil service rules, so we went along most of the time without counterpart people and without access to much more than the council of education we worked with. We tried to educate some of their top teachers and we visited a lot of the universities, learning Portuguese. My wife and I had 18 weeks of Portuguese.

Sell:

Have you ever been back?

Ryder:

Oh yes. We have been back three or four times and we are going back again a year after next.

Sell:

So, there was a continuing relationship?

Ryder:

Yes. My friends down there say that some of the things we urged on them have begun to show. They are getting their influx of students, too.

Sell:

What was one of the more important accomplishments?

Ryder:

We worked with the federal council and their eight people who were concerned with higher education. It was a 24 person group — lower, middle and upper levels of education. They didn't even know how many federal universities they had, so we made a survey of the universities and, if possible, their facilities. We found two universities they didn't know they had. They were federal but the bureaucracy didn't know anything about it. We found out that there were enough seats in all the engineering classrooms to seat every student 24 hours a day. He could own a seat and always have it there. No room was ever used in the second hour by another group of students.

Sell:

Kind of a waste.

Ryder:

Yes. And their dentistry, their clinics, same thing. There were chairs for all their dentistry candidates to use 24 hours a day if they wanted to. Horrible waste. One dean from some small university had 300 books in his library and he thought maybe he ought to have 300 books for each of his disciplines. We wanted to establish standards. The problem is that nearly anybody can start a school. He could set up a faculty of law, faculty of medicine, faculty of chemistry, faculty of pharmacy and have his own school. He might eventually sell it to the government. The federal university of Rio de Janeiro operates from 13 different sites, scattered across town. So, nursing teaches its own chemistry, engineering teaches its own chemistry, medicine teaches its own chemistry, physics teaches its own chemistry, and so forth. They are trying to gradually create city universities, which means a university as a city. This would allow some elimination of duplication.

The other severe problem is part-time faculty. A professor has a sheaf of dog-eared yellow notes. He gives his lecture at one university this morning, at another one this afternoon, and at a third one tonight. He has got three part-time jobs. We thought the thing to do was to stop this and have each man have a full-time job, but that isn't the way they work. They all work on part-time jobs, and it actually makes sense because if one job disappears, they still have two others. This is part of their national philosophy because they have been through some rough inflationary times, you see. So, it was very interesting; we were there 15 months. Then it became evident that we didn't need four people, so I decided I would get out of the deanship and put in for a three month sabbatical leave. We traveled to Argentina, Chile, Peru, Quito, Mexico, Los Angeles for a few hours, and back on the ship to New Zealand. Then we had eight weeks in Australia studying Australian engineering education, Manila, Japan and back home. I had been in Japan two or three times, and knew something of their university education systems. I wanted Australia to fill in the gap. Brazil, the United States, Australia and Japan had widely different economic scales. Each country put approximately the same number of dollars into a university student. At that time it was about thirteen hundred a year. Brazil, obviously, wasn't getting anything. The United States thought it was getting something. Japan was getting plenty. I'm not sure what Australia was getting. It was getting quality education, but not necessarily the education they needed, because all their schools tried to be "Oxfordish".

Sell:

Oxfordish?

Ryder:

Well Oxford and Cambridge in Australia. The University of Sydney probably is pretty close, but the rest of them should start being land grant schools. The University of New South Wales admits that it's a copy of an Americanized grad school, and it is doing a pretty good job. In ten years it grew from 100 students to 14,000. Australia's basic problem is that they were only budgeting for 4% of the college age group. They weren't producing enough professionally trained people. We produced too many. Anyway that was those two years, and I learned Portuguese, which was my objective. The trouble is: who wants an electrical engineer who speaks Portuguese?

Sell:

Yes. That's not much of a job market there.

Vacuum Tubes

Early Work

Sell:

Dean Ryder, in your career you witnessed incredible technological developments and their impact in many different spheres, beginning with the vacuum tube.

Ryder:

I always looked upon the vacuum tube as a very beautiful device, beautiful glassware with fancy elements inside. My first acquaintance probably goes back to about 1923, with ham radio. The possibilities of the vacuum tube were just beginning to be exploited. Later, at the General Electric Company, I was slightly concerned with vacuum tubes, but more with the thyratron and gaseous rectifier in its early development stages, about 1929 or '30. We were running tests for curves which later appeared in the construction manuals. Of course, those devices are completely gone from engineering use today. If they are manufactured at all, it's for the replacement of a few isolated pieces of equipment. Most have been changed to solid-state. I know in the 1930s the Electronics Magazine stated we were producing 88 million vacuum tubes a year. They just didn't see how we could ever exceed that, but during the war we produced 400 and 500 million tubes a year, and in a greater variety and in smaller sizes that were more complex to make.

Miniaturization and Metal Tubes

Sell:

Was military need an important factor in miniaturization?

Ryder:

Yes, their need particularly, of course, for the tubes for the proximity fuse, in very small sizes. The steel-enclosed tube of about 1939 or 1940 was for military and portable use. Bill White once explained to me what they were working towards. It was a GE development. Up until that time the whole vacuum tube industry had been plagued by fly-by-night glass blowers who could rent a loft in Paterson, go into business, produce tubes, and put them on the market. By the time the patent people caught up with them, they were out of business and doing business under a different name over in the next block. Anybody that could blow glass could produce vacuum tubes, so the objective of the steel tube was to put the technique into the machinery. It was going to cost $100,000 to $150,000 to set up the steel tube production line. Those fly-by-nights didn't have the capital. So they were going to run them out of business. Well of course they never did, because they never put the glass tube out of business, either. They did force the glass tube to get smaller again. The major achievement of the metal tube was in a very ingenious octal base for eight pins and a key to get the tube in the socket straight. In the old days, the trick was putting the tube in the back socket in the radio receiver. You could not see to orient the pins, to get them in right. This key automatically just rotated the thing until it dropped in place.

Transistors

Ryder:

Transistor development shortly after the end of the war completely changed things, bringing solid state to the fore. I would like to recall this for posterity because I actually invented the transistor in about 1926 at Ohio State University. I had been using galena detectors. I knew that galena was lead sulfide. I had some lead pipe, and there was a box of C.P. Sulphur in the medicine chest at my home, so one Saturday morning when my mother was out of the house, I put some lead pipe and some sulfur in a tin can and set it on the kitchen stove. The lead fused with the sulfur and I got galena crystals. The darn thing worked and worked, and now I know why. It was that trace of tin impurity that came from the tin cup. [Laughter] They were big crystals. I just didn't put the third contact on, that's all. The transistor doesn't do anything that wasn't possible with vacuum tube, but it has life, it has a small size and more importantly it doesn't have the filament leads draped all over the equipment like the vacuum tube had.

Sell:

Shortly after Shockley and Bardeen developed the first transistor at Bell Labs, noise was pretty quickly reduced, wasn't it?

Ryder:

Yes, the noise was part of the problem at first, especially at higher frequencies, and they got that down pretty soon by using some techniques that had been used previously with vacuum tubes. And as well they learned more about the materials. I was vice chairman of the AIEE-IRE vacuum tube conference in 1950, I think, at the University of New Hampshire. And there was one very interesting session. This was a vacuum tube conference but we gave over one session to the transistor — 1950. It was very interesting to sit back and see the generalship [sic]. The speakers were all Bell Lab's people, obviously, and here was Bill Shockley, way up in the back row. If the speaker was asked a question, Shockley would raise a score card on a saying if this was a question to be answered or not. One particular question was, "How come you fellows haven't done any work on silicon?" The answer was, "We haven't had time yet."

Gordon Teal tells the story that in 1952 he was on the program with this anonymously titled paper for the IRE convention. Other people were giving papers on new types of transistors. He sat very tense because his paper would announce the silicon transistor, and he was scared somebody would get on the program ahead of him. Two years later, Gordon Teal had gone from Bell Labs to Texas Instruments because while he did some work on silicon, somewhat sub rosa, on somebody else's budget because they were concentrating on germanium and TI would let him work on silicon. We can't give Bell Laboratories enough credit for contributing very valuable research to our field over the years since its founding. One of the early things was Black's work on feedback. Now, my industry, the measurement industry, was using feedback but we didn't know what we were doing, until Black's paper came along and formalized this mathematically. To paraphrase Kelvin, "When you can express it mathematically, you know about it." Black's paper put mathematics into the feedback situation. We began to realize what led to oscillation and physical processes, temperature controls, and what went into what we call "honey,” which was oscillating too much or improper phase relations in feedback. And, of course, we can go back to the beginning with Arnold's work on the tube. I have always felt that De Forest didn't really know what he had in the way of the tube. Certainly he never understood the grid bias situation, because it was the Lowenstein patent that exposed the value of negative grid bias, which the Bell System had to buy from Lowenstein.

Sell:

De Forest did not seem to recognize the necessity for the high vacuum.

Ryder:

No, in fact he rather deliberately depended on ionization to make this tube work. That was one of the severe limits on getting any output because he had to stay under a certain limiting voltage, often under twenty volts, so they couldn't get any power out. When Langmuir came along and invented a decent pump, they got a high vacuum. Arnold did some work on the same thing. Then Langmuir published his 1913 paper explaining the VI curve. It appears that de Forrest never had sense enough to do what we always do first: run a volt-ampere curve on the device, no matter what it is and go from there. Certainly, Bell Labs didn't lose much time getting the VI curve on the transistor. The first thing they did was make an amplifier out of it. That's what they said at least, and I bet the next day somebody ran a volt ampere curve. The obsolescence of the vacuum tube essentially in one engineer's lifetime and the obsolescence of the gaseous tube demonstrate that training that's too specific in terms of devices is dangerous, because if the device goes out of use so does your job.

Training vs. Education

Sell:

Bell Laboratories has a policy of promoting from within, and one of the reasons for that, I suspect, is dealing with technical specialty obsolescence. Their assumption is that, if you can do one thing you can do another, and if you're a good engineer or a good theoretician in one domain analogously you'll be able to pick it up and do equally well someplace else.

Ryder:

This goes back to my statement about graduate education. Graduate education teaches how to solve problems, and I think Bell Labs believes in this. Various Bell Labs people jumped around from circuits to transistors to something else and have been successful in almost everything they touch. The issue came to the floor of the IEEE about two years ago of industry's dissatisfaction with present graduates because they couldn't hold down jobs after they first graduated. I told one of those speakers that he was saying the same things I'd heard in 1930. Industry then complained that students who were very specifically trained weren't of any value to them, and they were saying it today. The problem is a failure to define their term, Manufacturers and engineers are looking at the value of a graduate engineer immediately on graduation. This is a short time view. College teachers are educating for a lifetime, so they are taking a long term view. They aren't saying that they are producing these fellows to be of use to industry tomorrow, but they hope they'll be extremely useful to them in twenty, thirty, or forty years and that the men will enjoy being engineers for that time. So you have two conflicting timetables. If they want someone to go to work tomorrow, they should go to a technical institute and get a technician. He would know which end of a soldering iron to pick up. A four-year engineer graduate won't even know what a soldering iron is, but he may be able to run that department for you in ten years and do a good job of it.

Sell:

Do you find that the industry representatives you are speaking of are themselves trained engineers or scientists?

Ryder:

Most of them are too old to realize what the schools are doing today. They came out of a time that stressed training over education, if you get the distinction. When I was at Michigan State for the first couple of years, it wasn't at all unusual for me to get this sort of telephone call in May: "I'm an alumnus of the class of 1932. I need a metallurgic engineer, could I come up next week and talk to a couple of your good men?" This was May. To get it off my chest and save my face, I always said, "Well, now we have a personnel department and I'll be glad to have you call them. Could I transfer your call to Mr. So and So over there?" I let the personnel people give the bad news that all those good men were located the last October.

Sell:

One of the possible reasons Bell Labs has such an excellent climate for research is that people in the hierarchy there came up through the research ranks themselves, and were given a free hand to structure things along the lines as they like it.

Ryder:

I think this is very true and they benefited by a long line of managers who have had this view. Most of them came up through some form of graduate work. They encouraged graduate study. Don't they still require that to be a member of the staff one has to have a doctorate?

Sell:

Well, you have to have a degree terminated. They do hire a masters and a bachelors. But they had some problems with taking bright young men who were near dissertation phase. In order to grab them up, Bell would bring them in and they would never go back and finish their dissertation.

Ryder:

A very good friend of mine says that half of the doctorates fail between the end of the courses and the completion of their theses. A lot of fellows get that far and discover they don't know how to do research. At Illinois and Michigan State we had a rule that if you were going to go on to the doctorate or if you were going to go into teaching, you had to do a master's thesis. You couldn't avoid the research. If you were going to take the masters as just a fifth year you could take it all course work, but we wanted these fellows who were going to go beyond to have experience in a small research project before they hit a big one. Overwhelmed with a big one, many of them wouldn't even pick a topic. So they quit after the course work and went to Bell Labs, and Bell Labs found that they didn't have as good of a man as they thought they had.

Computers and the University

ILLIAC, MSTIC

Sell:

You witnessed the impact of the computer, the major developments of the computer.

Ryder:

At Illinois, the first ILLIAC was under construction, as well as a contract for the ORDVAC for the Army Ordinance Corps. These machines were being built in electrical engineering space by electrical engineering people hired for the purpose. They were vacuum tube design, using cathode ray tubes for memory, storing the bits in electrostatic charges on the screen. Everybody said they couldn't possibly work, but they did. The first ILLIAC went into operation in ORDVAC, was shipped out in probably late 1951. Illinois had one of the very first university computers of any capability. It was very capable in those days, only slightly more capable than today's H35 hand-held calculator. But it showed the way. Illinois established the very forward-looking policy that people in other schools on the campus should use the computer for solving their problems, but if you wished to put a problem in the computer you had to bring it already programmed. This is machine-language programming, so it wasn't too easy. But it did something very important for the project, giving us people all over the campus who were missionaries after they had run their first problem. Pretty soon twenty people in different isolated places around the campus supported the use of the computer. At Michigan State, we copied the ILLIAC and called it the "MSTIC." I invented the name, Michigan State Integrated Computer or something like that. We copied it and Illinois told us it would cost $120,000 to build it. When I went to ask for the money, the president asked, how much would it cost? We said we weren't really sure yet, but up to $150,000. The president leaned back in his chair and said, "Oh, I thought was going to have to find you a quarter million." From 1957 until 1962 we made another $120,000 investment plus about $100,000 a year complete operating cost which even then was a very inexpensive computing facility for the whole university. In the early 1960s the transistor hit the computer business and changed everything. It changed the complete viewpoint, because with the MSTIC or the ILLIAC you had 4,000 vacuum tubes, and about 18 kilowatts of power going out through the air conditioning system. Your output was some marks on a piece of paper tape, and if you got 80 to 85% time available from the computer you were doing very well. The rest of the time was spent replacing the tube or a resistor or one of the cathode ray tubes in the memory. One time in Illinois all forty of the computers went out because they had gotten a new shipment of tubes from RCA and RCA had changed the glass in the tube without telling anybody.

Availability of Computer Resources

Ryder:

The transistor changed this availability from 80, 85% to 99+%. Today availability in computers is rarely discussed. It all happened because of the transistor and the diode. Michigan State went to a Control Data 3600 computer, which was a major computer in 1962 or 1963. It was the biggest single purchase The Board of Trustees ever made — over 3 million dollars, and it is still running. There is a Control Data 6600 on top of it, and now there are all kinds of peripheral computers scattered around the campus. Several truisms came out of some of the early installations. One was that if you didn't care what happened to your computer facility in your university, you let the math department run it. The service to the campus immediately disappeared because mathematicians don't care about numbers and computers do. Schools had to find other locations for the computers which would make them available to the campus as a whole.

Sell:

Was this a decision of the central administration?

Ryder:

Yes. Another truism is that if your computer science department wants to work with the computer itself, you should link them up to electrical engineering. Throughout the country we have EE departments and computer science departments concerned with the machine. If you want the group to be concerned with the broader uses of computers and the development of special languages and so forth, set the computer science off by itself free of electrical engineering, and it will develop in the language area. I have never felt it was desirable to associate computer science with EE. The number of people who are going to use computers as programmers or users is infinite, but the number of people are going to be employed in the design of new computers is extremely finite. You're up against this question of are you educating people too narrowly by educating for design of the computer or working with digital watches? The telephone system is going completely digital and almost everything else is going to change within the next ten years. The demand for digital control people will increase, and this is a basic problem universities face because within five or ten years they will have to change their laboratories, and there is no source for the money needed to change their laboratories over to digital measurement and transmission. Bell Labs is on top of this and the telephone system is running like mad to get there and Hi-Fi people are delighted with the performance of digital disks that they are working with.

Impact on Engineering Labs, Research

Sell:

The computer in terms of utilization of the device has had a major impact in terms of utilization.

Ryder:

Oh yes! And again in education, this means that you have got to put computers in the laboratory where the students can use them. This is where a profit on that miniaturization of the laboratory that I talked about came through. If we can put the whole system here on the bench with small instruments, then how about taking one of the instruments out and replacing it with the computer and let the computer simulate the performance of that instrument or device? This would work particularly in something like chemical engineering, where they want to simulate a chemical reactor, and have the computer connected to other chemical apparatus. I know one company has simulated a whole plant in the computer. Our students have got to get used to this, because they are going to be asked to set up and program these devices into computers. Again, the educational system isn't prepared for the cost. Lots of schools are not prepared to give the individual student access to a computer.

Sell:

Of course the computers have greatly contributed to systems.

Ryder:

Again, because of this possibility of simulating systems you see. You can simulate it right here in the room and change it. With this contrast to some of the old ways we handle things, we have a conflict between the professors who are interested in the new or the next step and a lot of the alumni who are practicing engineers. Practicing engineers often build models and later, when they get it done, find they built the wrong model. Then they have to apologize to the boss. The other problem with many of our systems today is that the thing is so huge or so financially expensive you simply can't afford to build them. The first one you build has to be it, and so you must simulate and test and simulate and test. Well, this is just one way of measuring what the computer can do for you. If tests fail, you throw out the program and put in a new one and run the system differently. As long as you aren't tying up a couple million of dollars worth of a computer, the cost is negligible.

Sell:

What impact do you think the computer has had on mathematics?

Ryder:

Well, I don't know that it's really had much impact on mathematics.

Sell:

The computation was eliminated.

Ryder:

Oh, yes. It was eliminated completely. I think that engineering has showed the difference. It may have made engineers much more aware of mathematics. In other words, they are now more willing to use mathematics or willing to look at mathematical methods which can be programmed back on the computer, for they would not have looked at it before.

Sell:

Because of too much burden to run.

Ryder:

Too much burden; why bother? So I think it kind of circuitous, but it's gone around through the math department and come back. I don't think you'll find many math departments who are much concerned with the computers today. They started to be at one time, using numerical analysis and all that. Pretty soon computer programming beat that and put it in hardware into the computer.

Admission Standards

Ryder:

I want to talk a minute about the effect of operating a scholastic program. We had a director of admissions at Michigan State who decided that the way to put Michigan State on the map was to upgrade the student body, particularly by going after National Merit Scholars. There were periods when I had more National Merit Scholars in the Michigan State College of Engineering than Harvard had in the whole university and these are tremendous boosts to the fellow who isn't a National Merit Scholar because he tries to keep up with some of these bright boys. More importantly, as knowledge of this program and this level of students got around all over the country, I noticed that overall my freshman class intelligence test scores were improving. We have always heard it said that engineers can't write or use English, yet I had a dramatic increase in the percentage of my engineering freshman who were in the top decile. It had been lower than 16%. The next year, the score was 24%. The next year I got up to 32% and in the top decile in verbal tests. Of course, it didn't keep on going, but the point is that when schools have an image in high schools of doing low-level work, it attracts low-level students.

So when you get a good image out there, you attract good students. One thing I did with a lot of effect, was to speak at a banquet of the Michigan Mathematics Teachers Association, the whole state. I gave them a lecture on what particular mathematics we wanted freshmen to have: science, trig functions, this and that. Two or three teachers commented, "If that's the kind of program you have, we are going to send all our good students." There in Michigan you have the competition with Ann Arbor, and I was out to show that we were as good or hopefully better than Ann Arbor. The two schools aren't alike, and I think Michigan State now appeals to the more theoretical student, which isn't always the impression you get abroad. But a good student attracts a good student. But a lot of engineering schools still operate under state laws; anybody with a high school diploma is admitted. Not many of these come, but a few of them show up and so you get some poor students in your freshman class. We had an admissions office that was tough. The students had to measure up in certain ways, and engineering had a helpful requirement: to enter the upper school in the junior year, you had to have a C average in technical courses not including English and Humanities.

AIEE/IRE Merger

Shift from Electrical to Electronic

Sell:

At this point we terminate the discussion on date August 22, 1979 and proceed with the discussion on August 23, 1979. The interviewee is J.D. Ryder, the interviewer is George C. Sell and this takes place in Atlanta, Georgia on August 23, 1979.

Ryder:

I would like to look at a few of the precursors to the merger that lie within my IRE and educational experience. These are very pertinent to the merger of the two societies; they show the activities favoring electronics over the power side of electrical engineering which occurred after World War II. In 1952-1953 I was chairman of the AIEE education committee and the IRE education committees simultaneously. I used this conjunction to try to point out to the electrical industry as a whole where the student interests appeared to lie, and to alert the utility industry to the fact that they faced a major problem in employing engineers for the future. As chairman of these committees, I surveyed a hundred and two schools having electrical engineering departments in the United States. I supplemented that with a little data showing student quality in several schools with which I had close relations. This resulted in a presentation to the 1952 AIEE meeting in New Orleans. The paper is entitled, "The Manpower Shortage Power in Education," and it appeared in the January, 1953 issue of Electrical Engineering. It showed a drastic drift in student interests to the various electronic fields and away from power. I forecast the number of electrical engineering BS graduates which would be available for the next several years.

I also provided data on the beginning salaries which showed the electronics companies to be somewhat above the offering of the electric public utilities. I also showed that the number of graduate degrees was substantially greater in electronics than in power. In 1951-1952 there were a reported 71 doctorates in electronics and only 13 in the power field. This paper was submitted for publication in Electrical Engineering, was accepted, and was published. At that time, the AIEE did not have a professional editor. It had an employee, C. S. Rich. Charles Rich was known to be someone under the thumb of various powerful committee chairmen. I heard rumors that some committees could get papers published and other committees couldn't, that Rich was almost fired from his job for publishing my paper, and that I was very nearly read out of the AIEE for publishing it. Here's your copy of it. It was not intended to be more than information to the industries concerned, particularly the utility industry. As a result of the paper, a couple of utilities invited me to come discuss the problems of recruiting. I pointed out that they had a 50% turnover in brand new engineers in the first two years of employment. The power utilities business was simply not capable of recruiting all the engineers they needed to replace this 50% loss. These people were quite concerned over it. They hadn't used the information available to them because they were still living in the old days when they could go to the schools and hire those they wanted because the schools were practically 100% power oriented.

Sell:

The utilities industry tried to rectify the situation, but was it able to do anything successfully?

Ryder:

There were a number of reasons given for this problem. One, that the power faculty were usually older faculty, not as dynamic and challenging to the students. Of course, I was a young squirt at that time. I published my first two books, and the older faculty just weren't able to enthuse the students as much as the other ones. Of course, there was much more supported research in the electronics and communications fields than there was in power. Power was almost negligible in terms of financed research. Students attracted to engineering had improved technically. They were more interested in challenging science and mathematics-oriented fields, and that was what electronics seemed to offer them. Yes, a question.

Sell:

I have an article from the Electrical World from April 30, 1962, which indicates the American Power Conference meeting in Chicago was still devoting a lot of time to discussing this issue. All these years after you identified these problems, they devoted a lot of time to discussion and that's about all.

Ryder:

There was a survey by Eta Kappa Nu, our electronic engineering honorary society, in April 1955. I was Vice President of Eta Kappa Nu that year and president of Eta Kappa Nu in 1956, and M.S. Aldacher, S. Reed Warren, and I conducted this survey of the 57 colleges in which Eta Kappa Nu had chapters. Summaries of actual student opinions in this paper show very much the same sort of thing. It shows student interest, their average appraisal of opportunities in different fields, factors influencing seniors' choice of employment — showing that the most important thing was better possibilities for personal development and advancement, not stability of the industry. This was published in November 1957, so again we were precursors to a situation which the power industry in general didn't satisfactorily meet. Electrical manufacturers were not really concerned, because they wanted both kinds of graduates, and were our major manufacturers: GE, Westinghouse, RCA. They could take a young fellow up on the mountain two years after he had been employed with them and show him that opportunity is spread over a very complex technical field. They didn't care what his individual interests were, if he had brains.

Student and Professional Societies

Sell:

You wanted to discuss what the student statistics of the post-war period reflected and seemed to predict for professional societies and membership?

Ryder:

The statistics should have been indicative to members in both societies. While the college enrollments in electrical engineering were at a minimum during the war, in 1947 peaked the immediate post-war GI surge. In 1950 the IRE had over 20,000 members. Of course, the college enrollments then fell in engineering due to rumors of oversupply. The AIEE fell more than the IRE, because IRE student interests were supported by the very trends mentioned in these several papers and also because a few people on the IRE board were beginning to encourage increased IRE participation in school activities. Then in 1954, the IRE introduced the IRE Student Quarterly, a special magazine for the students of the Institute. This had been developed the preceding year. In about April of 1953, I was invited to come from the University of Illinois to give a speech at the Cedar Rapids IRE section's communications conference that was held in the spring of each year. I was approached by Ted Hunter, a very good engineer and a Collins employee. Dave Hudson, several other Collins engineers there, and I felt there was need for more IRE activity with the students. Ted thought it might be good if we prepared a separate journal for the students, because at that time the IRE sent the students copies of its proceedings, which were written for the research level and were not very intelligible to the students. Part of the reason the AIEE student membership was higher was because students were being sent Electrical Engineering, which was more intelligible. Ted and the others asked me what they could do, and I suggested they, go ahead and draw up a magazine as they would like to see it done. With me on the IRE board and Ted on the IRE board at the same time, I thought we might be able to sell something.

During that summer this was done at Collins Radio, hidden on somebody's budget. In the fall they produced what I called volume 0, number 1 of the IRE Student Quarterly, dated September, 1953. 80 copies were produced; some of them were sent to high schools in the Iowa area to get student reactions. Frequently, these were the students at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City. They took it to high schools, too. I consider this a real collector's item. This material was almost entirely from Collins radio. It was stuff they had available or quickly threw together. It was understood that it wasn't intended to boost one company. It was indicative of the kind of readable material Ted and his editorial group thought should be of interest to the students. We sold that to the IRE board in the fall of 1953, and Ted was given a budget to publish, and the first official issue, Volume 1, No. 1 appeared for the students in September 1954. I wrote several articles for them, one of which was called, "The Five Ages of the Engineer." It received a lot of reprint requests in Canada and the United States. It's a take-off on Shakespeare's five ages, but applied to the engineer. Here I have the 50th Anniversary Student Quarterly issue for May, 1962. This was the student equivalent of the big door stop issue of the proceedings of May, 1962, and has reprints of articles by De Forest, Espenscheid — you'll recognize some of the names there.

I don't think there was any influence other than the general interest in electronics that pushed the IRE student membership to equality with the AIEE in 1955 and eventually pushed the IRE student membership to over 20,000 in 1962. The AIEE was remaining essentially constant around 10,000. I will say this for the AIEE: they frequently had a better organization in the colleges. They frequently had a student prize paper contest, which was carried over to the merged society and which the IRE had not really developed. I've never been too sympathetic towards this because the idea of a prize paper for a student comes from the day when we had undergraduate thesis and a senior student had something to write about. There is no longer the undergraduate theses; it disappeared during the war. The Student Quarterly certainly had a strong precursor effect, because I don't see how any member of the two organizations couldn't foresee the future with the rising IRE student membership versus the relatively constant and even slightly falling membership of the AIEE. Students are the future senior members.

Sell:

That is certainly true, but there is the possibility that this is a reflection of something else, an underlying cause. In other words, there is a common cause for both the student statistics and the trouble that the two societies were having. This logical possibility allows us to investigate other causes such as the fact that there was a move to unite the two societies which went back quite a while.

Joint Membership and Reactions

Ryder:

Oh, yes. In 1955, I was president of the IRE, for the calendar year. On August 1, which was the beginning year for the AIEE, Morris Hooven became president of that organization and we had lunch that day at the Engineers Club on 40th Street, New York. This was to explore possibilities of further cooperation. Out of this meeting, which is otherwise unrecorded because it was very personal, we developed the idea of joint membership to the two societies. A man in the member grade in the IEE, which is equivalent to the senior member grade at IRE, could transfer from one society to another without submitting any credentials other than the fact that he was an equivalent in the other society, without the payment of any initiation or transfer fee. We felt this would help the unity between the two societies. I took it back to the IRE board, and it adopted this as policy. Morris had overstepped his board, and the AIEE board did not accept this idea of joint membership until 1958; it was three years before they accepted this. And so we did have both ways of joint membership.

Sell:

You say that Morris Hooven overstepped his board. Can you explain that a little bit?

Ryder:

I mean that he didn't have a majority in favor of such close cooperation.

Sell:

Is that a result of questioning his effectiveness in the presidency?

Ryder:

Not necessarily. After all, the AIEE board was very large and the IRE board was small. Theirs was about twice its size. There were some other indications that may be factual and may be facetious. I have not checked into it. A president of the AIEE during about 1946 to 1948 once told me that in his presidency there was considerable AIEE support for merging with the IRE. This was not reciprocated by the IRE board at that time. He ascribed it to the fact that he had a lot of professors on the AIEE board while there weren't professors on the IRE board. In 1955, when I was IRE president, and we had sentiment for joint membership, I felt that I had most educators on my side. There was a limited number on the AIEE, and it has therefore been concluded that we couldn't have merged until we had professors on both boards at the same time. At any rate, social forces leading to merger had to mature to a certain level.

Now I would like to address another set of correspondence I have here. It shows the differing viewpoints possible from people of good will on both sides, having the experience of coming through one board or the other, or one society's operation instead of the other. This first letter is a letter from Hibshman on March 17, 1970 to Morris Hooven, who is not identified here. One significant comment is that the clustering of groups and the divisions in board representation of the IEEE showed the justification of the AIEE leadership in trusting to the wisdom born of experience to find a way. He says I reminded him of what Charlie Scott said when looking back on his experience starting sections and branches. One alternative was to make bylaws; the other was to start. That phraseology could have applied just as well as to W.R.G. Baker in setting up the group system in the IRE. He said "Start," and you did. An example of that was my suggestion to the executive committee in about 1957 that I thought we should have an education group. Doc Baker sat across the table, pointed his finger and said, "You are in. You've got it." Later I produced the necessary signatures and was the first chairman of the education group.

Sell:

That little interaction with Baker in establishing the education group is indicative of the way things operated in the two societies?

Ryder:

Yes.

Sell:

That it was possible to do that sort of thing in the IRE, that it was easy to facilitate change?

Ryder:

Very. George Bailey and W.R.G. Baker ran the IRE in the 1950s. As long as the rules or regulations permitted something and you needed it done, he was all for it. It was my understanding that the AIEE was not quite so free and easy and more inclined to say, "I'll have to go to the board of directors about this." It's also my understanding that at the time the AIEE did not have an executive committee to handle the day to day decisions.

Sell:

They had the full board.

Ryder:

But the IRE did have an executive committee of 5 or 6 people, who had monthly meetings to, as George Bailey put it, "Buy the lead pencils needed for the operation."

Sell:

That's the personal level of the problem. Perhaps we could get a little bit to the problem itself? Could we talk about the structure of the two organizations at the time?

Ryder:

Let's finish up this bit about Morris Hooven. The next letter is dated March 19, 1970 from Hibshman to Morris, apparently to Morris as chairman of the history committee of the IEEE. He talks about a number of items in the beginnings of the merger movement. I think most of these are factual and the dates should be checked as any historian would do it. It does give some items that may not appear in the record otherwise. So, I'll give you that letter.

Sell:

Alright. We reference this here.

Ryder:

Now I come to another letter from Hooven to Hibshman, dated April 2, 1970 and marked personal. I am perfectly willing to give you a copy of it. I won't talk about the letter. You have a copy, but it does raise the question about your treatment of Hooven, and maybe we ought to go off the record on this. Let's switch off for a minute.

Sell:

With Morris Hooven, one may want to take with a grain of salt some of the conclusions from the data he has compiled. Of course if he has compiled some interesting data that perhaps we need to read very closely and address.

Regional Committee Membership

Ryder:

I am able to take Morris' own figures in some cases and draw completely different conclusions. I have some concerns in the opposite direction, not that the IRE has taken over the IEEE, but that the IEEE has become more like an AIEE form of organization with a very large board and with all of the board members representing constituencies. This does not agree with policies established by the merger committee in writing the constitution. Morris' figures on regional committee membership says the Region 1 committee had 82 members who were in IRE only, the year of the merger. There were 40 AIEE only. In region 6, Pacific Coast Area there were 64 IRE and 38 AIEE only. He shows that in those regions IRE overbalances by a considerable amount. But look at the other regions. In Region 2, Region 3, Region 4, and Region 5 the AIEE overbalances. On the board, representation is by regional directors, the vote is 4 to 2 in favor of the AIEE. Many of the early regional directors from these central regions were former AIEE directors, eminent people in their regions. They had the votes, and I had the pleasant job of educating one midwest regional director to what an electronic show was all about. I had to personally guide him around an actual electronic conference. He had never even heard of it, yet he was a director from that region. What happened was that the IRE membership was somewhat greater than the AIEE but was concentrated in two areas: New York and the west coast, which is region 6. In terms of regions, AIEE is in the middle, so I can draw from Morris's own figures a completely reverse picture. I will argue that the present board is more like the AIEE board of 1962 than it is the IRE board of 1962.

I also have a letter from May 11, 1973 from Morris Hooven to Harold Chestnut, the 1973 IEEE president. It argues much the same line with the board of directors and other groups showing that he sees an IRE-AIEE predominance ten years after the merger. I don't think this should be so surprising, because the IRE membership was younger than the AIEE membership at the time of merger. So the younger members get older and the older member get still older.

Sell:

It's a natural replacement process.

Merger Committee and Don Fink

Ryder:

That's what I ascribe that to. It doesn't concern me greatly. Ronald McFarlan was a member of the merger committee of 14 men. He was president of the IRE about 1958. I asked him for his memories of the merger and he supplied me a copy of dates from his appointment books of 1961 and 1962. They are partial but not complete. I attended the September 13, 1961 meeting, which is the second listed on this sheet. This was the meeting in which we hired Don Fink.

Sell:

As a general manager?

Ryder:

As general manager. At that time a subcommittee was searching for a prospective general manager, and he had recommended Don Fink. Fink was there, and a telephone call was placed to his boss to get his approval to make the offer to Don. There were some adjustments concerning retirement and insurance. Don was hired and thereafter met with the merger committee, but not as a member.

Sell:

Not as a voting member.

Ryder:

These notes give no places until the December 13 meeting. I don't know where that was held. This says at the Engineering Societies Building, and that is probably right. There were other meetings he doesn't have in here, because I recall meetings in Cleveland, Chicago and various other places. I have a photograph of the meeting at Dallas on July 27, 1962 which proves that this was the fourteen man committee, operating before the vote was taken to authorize it. Ron's material is confused about the operations of the eight man committee and the fourteen man committee. This photo has Pat Haggerty as President of the IRE. One day that was held at the Ramada Inn, near the airport. The other was held at the TI conference room, where the name of the future society was threshed out and at which Barney Oliver made the sketch of the first badge.

Name and Symbol for New Organization

Ryder:

This is 1962, in Dallas. The fourteen man committee got to the matter of a name for the projected merged society. Of the preceding societies, one had "American" in its name. The IRE deliberately left out "American" in its formation in 1912 because it felt that electrical engineering, particularly radio and communications, was international. So, the merger committee agreed to adopt the policy of recognizing the worldwide nature of electricity and agreed to leave the word American off any society name for the future. We would have agreed on IEE but our friends in Great Britain had had that since 1878, or something like that. If we were going to be international, we couldn't start out by stepping on their toes, so that ruled out the IEE. And so the next suggestion was to make it IEEE to introduce the somewhat redundant electronics along with electrical. There was uncertainty as to whether it should be the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers or Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which wasn't really finally resolved until a Spectrum editorial, a year or so later. I cited authority and rejected the singular and went to the "s" because physics, mathematics and economics are spoken of with an "s" on the name.

Sell:

I believe you cited that this was true since 1500. Anything prior to that is singular.

Ryder:

Right. We all admitted that electrical and electronics did duplicate, but we need another letter to get us away from the IEE, and the IEEE seemed to be suitable. On the IRE side, there was some feeling that it should be the Institute of Electrical Science and Engineering. This would have been a drastic change in viewpoint because it would have been naming a field and not the people. The IRE people would have voted for this in mass, but we felt that it was a little too radical to push on the AIEE, and we had some other things we wanted to argue about if we had to. We didn't want to muddy the waters by pushing too hard. If we had done that, some of these so called professional activities that have been causing some upset in the IEEE would have been automatically rejected. We would have stressed the field and not the people. But that's the way the name was settled. The badge was proposed and I had covered this in the spectral lines, but we wanted to retain civil engineers from both sides of the house and felt that the AIEE curved diamond could have been improved a little in just general shape. Barney Oliver sketched a slightly less pointed version of the AIEE diamond. Then I suggested that in retaining the IRE electromagnetic arrow and curved arrow symbol we could make it positive instead of negative as the IRE had it, turning the arrow upwards for one of the fields. I also suggested that with that symbol we leave off all letters because then that symbol would read the same anywhere in the world. I should have added that it would read on Jupiter the same way. So that's where the symbol came from, Barney Oliver sketched up the first badge, and this was approved without any serious argument.

Relationship with British IEE

Sell:

You mentioned the British organization of engineers, the IEE. The historians may question why they were not more closely consulted and brought into the merger process given that the merged society was quite publicly interested in being an international organization.

Ryder:

Some of this comes from previous history. The IRE had close relations with the IEE, and the AIEE probably had too. But the British already had a separate split-off society. I think it was the IREE in England. Also, the IRE had one or two sections in the British Isles, set up at the request of the British and with the approval of the IEE or the IREE. We also had good relations with the society in Australia. We had had a reciprocal publication agreement with them for many years. If we had called it the IEE, we would have caused a British empire ruckus. We also had a Tokyo section. I addressed them twice in the sixties, not in Japanese, of course. The AIEE had only some Canadians in operation. In fact, I'm not sure they had those.

Merger in Larger Context

Sell:

Now we'll begin a question and answer period so we can cover a lot of the issues relating to the merger. As a preamble to that, I think it might be a good point to discuss its significance. Or at least I'll read into the taped session some of the reasons it is a significant event. The history of the merger revealed by the archives — that is, the Hibshman papers — appears to be a rather smoothly engineered, straightforward and typical administrative merger process, rather unspectacular and of limited significance. However, when viewed in its larger context, that being the reorganization of scientific and engineering professional societies after World War II, the spectacular electronics revolution, the Cold War arms race, the unity of the engineering professional movement of the 1950s, the growing movement toward engineering unionism and collective bargaining, industrial expansion in technological fields, and increasing government patronage of scientific and technological research, the merger is one of the most significant developments in the recent social history of American science and technology.

I think historians would naturally ask about the level of industrial corporate interest and involvement in the merger process, relating this to the labor problem, to the fact that a united front of engineers can be somewhat concerned on a management level in industry.

Ryder:

I think that in the 1950s I'd heard some concern by the industrial members of both boards that companies were getting a little rusty at contributing time, energy, and money to two societies. I can't say how much behind the scenes maneuvering may have resulted from this but it was present. If you look at the moving personnel in the merger, namely Haggerty, Linder, and Robertson, you'll find three industrial representatives. Two were in very major positions in very major corporations. Robertson was the vice president of the Dallas Power Company and during part of the merger activity was also mayor of Dallas. Pat Haggerty was not only president of Texas Instruments, but president of Braniff Airlines which TI owned at that time.

Sell:

Both of them, of course, are long-time citizens of Dallas.

Ryder:

Yes. There was more fire behind these occasional comments than appeared on the surface. Certainly these three men were the prime movers, planners and urgers for the merger.

Sell:

Prior to this Lloyd Berkner was there.

Ryder:

Yes. Having transferred his activities from Long Island to Dallas, Berkner was in the midst of the same geographical grouping that these others came out of.

Relationship Between Academic and Industrial Members

Sell:

You mentioned earlier that it appeared as if for a board to favor a merger, it had to be heavily populated by professors. But this was usually the case in both societies. The group that really had to be convinced were the non-academics, the industry people.

Ryder:

About all the educators really have at any time is a swing vote. As I pointed out, these three major movers were prime industrial people. Pat Haggerty, of course, represented a high technology firm. Linder was another representative of a reasonably high technology firm, although not from communications, and was a very top-level manager. On the other side was the utility field, the particular AIEE interests of Robertson. So, not only were their managerial capabilities well used, but they covered the spectrum pretty well. Haggerty on one side, Robertson on the other, and Linder in the middle.

Issue of Unionization

Sell:

We want to know what would have convinced the industrial people. One historian, Edwin Layton, argues that in the 1950s the technical professional societies' concern in the rank and file was engineering unionism and collective bargaining with industry. But that evidently died out in the early 1960s, so perhaps the industry people swung over because the threat of engineering unionism was no longer there. Therefore the essential problem that could come to the floor was the question of duplication. Given that that would come to the floor, industry would want a merged society. How much credit do we give to the problem of unionization?

Ryder:

The advocates of unionization for engineers were nearly as great in the electrical industries as they were in aerospace. My own attitude toward that movement largely followed the professional society set-up at Boeing, which was very influential, very middle of the road. In the electrical field, the power and utilities side really didn't know what technicians were and still don't. The electronics people did employ technicians as engineering assistants. For instance, at Collins Radio every engineer in the development laboratory had one or more technicians to do his soldering and construction and testing of routine models and so forth. These technicians with repetitive jobs could well have been influenced by union organizers. But that was not true across the entire electrical board. It was always on the back burner; it was always there, but I am not sure it was anywhere as strong as the desire to make some duplication. We had to realize that the contributions of industry to the professional society are tremendous. Some people recently have been concerned that the IEEE has not consulted with industry the way it should. When we adopted a code of ethics for an engineer it was not taken to any industry representatives to be discussed. This was a bad mistake, resented by certain industrial people.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Sell:

You mentioned the aeronautics and aerospace engineers and their professional society problems. The very same year that the two societies merged and formed the IEEE, professional societies of aeronautical engineers and astronautical engineers joined and formed the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Ryder:

Incidentally, these people asked for and received a number of the preliminary documents that were used in the IEEE merger.

Sell:

There were also charter members of both organizations involved: Haraden Pratt was one, and I believe Lloyd Berkner was also a part of this. One wonders whether there's a connection to the unity movement of engineering professional societies generally. Were the merger that resulted in the IEEE and the merger that resulted in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics part of a movement toward unity of engineering professional societies which really never achieved its ultimate goal? Interest in the movement died out after the merger, in the late 1960s.

Ryder:

Well, are we on record?

Sell:

Yes.

Ryder:

It died out, yes. In Harold Chestnut's presidency, it was brought to the fore again with this ACE organization. It is still being worked upon and formulated. Engineering unity has been an ideal way out on the horizon for a long time.

Inclusiveness and Democracy

Sell:

Why an ideal?

Ryder:

It is very difficult to define what an engineer is. It is difficult to bring together a group of engineering organizations and say to some, "You are in," and to say to others, "You people aren't really engineers. You are out." When you begin letting everybody in, soon the professionals are swamped by the technicians and this leads to all kinds of factional arguments. The old Founder Society had found a mechanism of setting itself apart. This excluded the IRE, but the IRE didn't really care about that.

Sell:

They didn't care about it?

Ryder:

They didn't care to be in one particularly. There were certain advantages, but it did lead to a little bitterness on the IRE side because these people were always talking about the Founder Society, the Carnegie Grant to the building and things like that.

Sell:

There is a certain amount of power in the traditions.

Ryder:

And of course after the merger, well, the IEEE became a member of the Founder Society, so now it's in and everybody else is out.

Sell:

And of course this explains why the ancestry is traced to 1884.

Ryder:

Exactly. It was the oldest society.

Sell:

There was considerable criticism of the midpoint in the merger process from certain sectors of the rank and file, not only from power people but from others as well. They thought the process was very hasty and perhaps not quite as democratic as would have been hoped by some members. How democratic was the process, and was the speed a factor? Did the rank and file have input?

Ryder:

It was as democratic as any of these professional societies can ever be. The appropriate items were put to a vote. The votes are usually recommended by a board of directors or a committee, and many people were quite willing to go along with people they consider responsible, so these votes were pretty well assured in the first place. Nevertheless, the membership did have a chance to say on a ballot to the various critical points. The first one, of course, was the fundamental question of should we work towards merger, and if we do, do you authorize a certain step to be taken? These steps were spelled out in a time table which was known to the membership. They were rapid, mostly dictated by legal considerations since after all this was to be a New York corporation.

Sell:

The schedule that was laid out early in the merger process was pretty closely followed. The only time and reason it slowed down was to answer rising criticisms in the spring of 1962. Letters were reaching editors.

Ryder:

In 1962 we were already operating as a unified society, in a way. I was editor in 1963, but certain operations were being taken jointly as sections were beginning together in geographical areas. Other things were in motion. The sections certainly had a chance for negative input if there had been a grassroots uprising. Because they were actually cooperating, they jumped the gun in many cases, saying "Instead of having two meetings next month, let's have a joint meeting." This page from the Dallas newsletter of November 27, 1962 brags that its membership has just doubled because in North Texas, the AIEE section is part of it.

Role of Ronald McFarland

Sell:

The principal players in the merger, who had the authority and power to come to the negotiation process leading to the merger of the two societies, were not necessarily representative of the rank and file; they were industrial and academics leaders. We might talk about who the principal players were and how they entered the process. For example, we might begin with Ronald McFarland. Ronald McFarland was asked in January 1961, a junior past president of the IRE...

Ryder:

In other words, he had been president the previous year. So that was a rather logical choice.

Sell:

He met with the AIEE board in New York to discuss mutual problems. How did he enter the picture at that point?

Ryder:

Under the IRE procedures, the junior past president and senior past president are on the board. In other words, a president is on the board for two years after his year of service. As the immediate past president McFarland had just stepped out, so he probably had had informal conversations in November or December which he'd carried on as president. It was logical that the 1961 incoming president asked him to continue these conversations.

Sell:

Does the junior past president take on a bit more of the role of the statesman?

Ryder:

Oh yes. That's the purpose of keeping these two past presidents on. Their experience can carry over. They can be assigned jobs not in the day to day operation dealing with policy or relations with other societies.

Sell:

A piece of correspondence in the Hooven papers speculates as to how McFarland came to the presidency. There is a rather cryptic statement that it was a capitulation to the Boston section.

Ryder:

The nominations committee of the IRE always met in March at the convention in New York. Groundwork had been prepared for one or several candidates. I suspect there had not been a president from New England for a few years. There was a time when the AIEE had a rather rigid rotation. There would be a president from GE, a president from Westinghouse, a president from Bell System, a president from somewhere else — usually a professor — and then it began again, with three major industrial outfits. The IRE didn't have this, but felt various regions through the country deserved recognition for presidency once in a while. The IRE had another policy that the vice-president always be a non-U.S. citizen.

Sell:

McFarland was not necessarily an engineer. He was a physicist who did a considerable amount of consulting in the industry.

Ryder:

That made no difference to the IRE. The scientist/engineer argument just didn't interest the IRE at all. Berkner was not an engineer really. Giraldi was consorting with the nuclear physicists.

Donald Fink and Bernard Oliver

Sell:

Another principal player was Donald G. Fink. Just how did Don Fink enter the process? His role stretches far back.

Ryder:

Don came to the fore as the editor of McGraw Hill's Electronics Magazine for a period. Then he was on the IRE board, probably as a director at large. He was editor after Alfred Goldsmith's retirement in 1953. He was also on the NTSC, the National Television Systems Committee, which prepared the standards for color television. So when the merger committee began to look for a future general manager, his name came very quickly to the fore.

Sell:

Bernard Oliver played an important role, particularly in the latter phases of the merger process. How did he enter the picture?

Ryder:

Barney was the director of research for Hewlett Packard. Bill Hewlett was president of IRE in 1956. Barney was more or less suggested for that activity by Bill Hewlett's inability to give time for it himself. I would have considered either one an excellent manager. Barney is brilliant, always able to make major contributions in resolving questions.

Sell:

Was he part of what might be referred to as a network of managers?

Ryder:

The whole fourteen-man merger committee was predominantly made of managers. Barney was probably the best real engineer in the crew. There were his technical achievements, his ability to deal with Hewlett Packard research, and his publications. He wrote a brilliant article that reported on space transportation at the student level.

Sell:

He was the second IEEE president?

Ryder:

I think so.

Sell:

Did he see himself as representing the west coast?

Ryder:

Quite likely. He and Walter Peterson did. Walt felt more like a sectional representative than Barney did. Barney was just a darn brilliant...

Sell:

Perhaps a more global thinker. If he was such a good engineer, with such a good mind, so technically oriented, why didn't he play a stronger role in the formation of the technical committee structure?

Ryder:

You have to remember that the IEEE didn't have technical committees. We inherited from the two predecessors a technical committee structure and a professional group structure. In the IRE the technical committee activities had been transferred to the groups in their areas. When we decided the technical committees of the AIEE should be invited into the professional group structure, Barney was given a job of supervising this amalgamation.

Sell:

What was his relationship with Henry Blackman? Did he work with him on this?

Ryder:

I am sure he did. But since it was a takeover by the groups, Henry had little to do other than smoothing the ruffled feathers of technical committee chairmen. I think everybody on both sides recognized that the groups had the money and the publications. The technical committees had neither, so they advanced themselves by being amalgamated and accepting parts in the governing of the appropriate group.

Sell:

Industry would have a very strong interest in how the new merged society was organized along technical lines.

Ryder:

Oh yes. This led to some of the IEEE power-oriented committees amalgamating into what is now the power society. There had been no power technical group in the IRE for obvious reasons. Some of the technical committees came together, and others went into industrial electronics and control instrumentation.

Sell:

Henry Blackman had a position at Westinghouse, a world that was almost exclusively oriented to the professional societies. He represented the company to the professional societies. As a socially oriented historian, I find it interesting that a company would have one of its top people to play solely that role. Does that exemplify a strong interest on its part?

Ryder:

Yes. The Westinghouse Company was founded on Tesla. George Westinghouse heard Tesla give a paper in about 1893, at an AIEE meeting in New York. He hired Tesla on the spot and out of that came Westinghouse's stake in the alternating current. George Westinghouse was succeeded by some people he undoubtedly trained. They did have a strong precedent leading to the AIEE.

Sell:

A consistent interest in professional societies.

Ryder:

The company felt it had a stake in a strong professional society. It owes its very existence to one, much more than GE does.

Benjamin Teare and Pat Haggarty

Sell:

I am also interested in Benjamin Teare, [B. Richard Teare, Jr.] who represented the academic community.

Ryder:

Dick Teare. He and I started this General Electric test in the summer of 1929. We both lived at the YMCA, and I have known Dick every since. He was a past president of the IEE, representing academics, and I think it was a very logical choice.

Sell:

He was identified by Berkner, I believe, for the first two- man committee to look specifically into the question of merger. He met with Pat Haggerty in Pittsburgh. Their conclusion was simply that, yes, we should look at this question. Was this meeting indicative of a meeting of the minds with academics representing one side and industry the other? Does this perhaps reflect the statement that Haggerty represented the interests of industry?

Ryder:

To me the important thing was Pat's ability as a manager. The fact that he was an industrial manager was second. Dick had been active in the AIEE for a long time. I went off in the IRE direction, and he went in the AIEE direction because he was at GE until he went to Yale. Dick had been a recent president, with the ability to keep various factions on even keel. He was a good choice to explore, to discuss the possibilities. Haggerty was a little quicker than Dick was, but nevertheless Pat was a good person to look at the inequalities. Dick was a representative of the academic side. In other words, he agreed we were one profession, not two.

Sell:

You mentioned Elgin Robertson as one of the true statesmen at the merger process.

Ryder:

He was vice president of the Dallas Power System and acting mayor of the city of Dallas. He could represent the utility interests without pushing too hard. They had confidence in him, so he could sit back and just keep a soft touch while everybody else debated.

Sell:

How close was he with Pat Haggerty? This is perhaps a little harsh, but I intend it to be provocative. Could Haggerty rely upon Robertson to pretty much follow the line that Haggerty established?

Ryder:

I don't think that it was automatic at all.

Sell:

Now there's the circumstantial evidence of course that they are both Dallas people, in a close relationship.

Ryder:

I don't think they were at all close, because their industries were so completely diverse: high technology against utility operation. Pat had been IRE so strongly and Robertson had been AIEE so strongly. Each exercised his own managerial judgement, and they voted or suggested what seemed best to them.

Sell:

You mention Pat Haggerty's managerial skills; he was a fast mover, a man of diplomatic finesse.

Ryder:

Let me just tell you a little story. In 1955, as IRE president, I visited Dallas and was entertained at lunch by Texas Instruments. They had seven department heads around the table. Six of these had Ph.D.s, including the vice president for manufacturing. I came along and said, "This outfit can't miss." So I bought some TI stock and built half of a house out of it. In other words, the people to choose as department heads were obvious then.

Sell:

How is it that there was such a close relationship between TI and Bell Laboratories?

Ryder:

TI had to get licensed for some of its early transistor work. It took Gordon Teal away from Bell Labs to work on silicon when Bell Labs was pushing germanium. These companies in the electronics business are very fierce competitors, but they are all friendly too, with one or two exceptions. I have watched John Sinclair of the General Radio Company and Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, on the board at the same time. They were presidents of the IRE within a few years of each other. It has been very interesting to contrast managerial style. Bill Hewlett and Hewlett Packard Company were ready to say, "What will have to be measured ten years from now? Let's get ready for it." I sensed General Radio, reflecting its New England background, and its employee ownership, having to be very careful with money. They say "If you have a measurement problem we'll be glad to build you something." One looked ahead, the other at today. Hewlett Packard has now taken over the measurement business, and General Radio has gone off and found its own field in test measurement.

Clarence Linder and Ernst Webber

Sell:

You have mentioned Clarence Linder as one of the three principal statesmen, but it is not reflected in the pictures.

Ryder:

You wouldn't find Clarence dashing off in all directions or waving about. Very quiet, very friendly, and very sound in judgement. He was inclined to lay a gentle hand on someone and suggest they go this way or that. During the first couple of years of the IEEE, he was a tower of strength. When I was editor he was extremely helpful.

Sell:

Is he the man you might say was the follow-through?

Ryder:

Yes. In the early 1960s.

Sell:

The years of the new merged society.

Ryder:

As soon as the merger was complete, Pat Haggerty and Elgin Robertson rather dropped out of the picture. Linder was the man from the merger committee who saw that it went right the first two years. Weber was the first president, of course.

We were charged to come up with a slate of officers for 1963. It was the first year of the new society, and we wanted someone with a proven track record who was considered very impartial. Ernst was well known to us, respected on both sides. The choice was resolved very quickly.

Sell:

Yet he had not been very much involved in the early merger process.

Ryder:

No. He hadn't really come forward and carried the ball. Ernst is very quiet, with responsibilities at Brooklyn Poly. Brooklyn Poly was having financial and faculty troubles. There were undoubtedly problems that took some of his time.

Sell:

When did he enter the picture as a player?

Ryder:

As a member of the fourteen-man committee.

Sell:

He is not a member.

Ryder:

He was in a picture here.

Winners and Losers?

Sell:

Perhaps he was not a formal member but was working behind the scenes more. I would like to raise the question of winners and losers in the merger process. Of course, there is antagonism between the power group and the higher frequency people. The electronics people and the power people had a real stake in maintaining the AIEE. They had a long-standing role in that organization, yet the technology itself and the industry were sluggish. There was nothing exciting going on there. They grumbled and griped at the merger process, but never really presented any constructive suggestions for remedying their situation. Was the power group really the loser in the process? Should we even talk about losers and winners?

Ryder:

I don't think you want to talk about losers, and I don't think you want to talk about antagonism between the two groups. If you look over the year since the merger, I think you could document that there are more members in the power society than the power people in AIEE ever had. You can also document that there are now more pages of publication for the power society. There are more pages than they ever had under the AIEE. The major way a professional society serves its members is through publication. I think they are better off, and they are their own bosses for the most part. Some of their budgets are pretty sizable; the power society is a big society. It has felt put upon in terms of fellows but this is going to change. As they become more involved with some of their really big systems problems, they will get some really big people to solve them, and they'll be fellows. I don't see any losses except that today we are not spending enough time planning for the future, setting policies that will lead to a viable institute in the future. I am afraid there has been too much reaction to today's problems or yesterday's problems.

New Publication Policy

Sell:

Perhaps you would like to discuss the new publication policy for the merged society. You were certainly the principal player there.

Ryder:

The question of an editor for the merged society arose at a merger committee at the O'Hare Inn in Chicago. This office had existed in the IRE from the beginning and had been filled by Alfred Goldsmith in 1915 to 1953, establishing quite a precedent. It was an office that AIEE had never had, and their representatives to the committee didn't quite understand what we were talking about. So they said, "Well, come tell us about it." I was asked to talk to the AIEE representatives about the job of editor and what it would entail and might be useful for. As the upshot of this little session, they said "All right. We'll buy the office of the editor, if you'll be the first editor." I had had half the votes, so that is how it was left, and the job of editor was written into the new constitution. There were various explicit instructions given to the editorial board, which was set up as part of the editor's job. They were instructed to carry on Proceedings and Electrical Engineering at least for the first year and to look at those and other publications to find out which best served the members. In 1962 or 1963, the editorial board undertook a study of this. As general manager, Don Fink hired an editorial consultant, Ralph Flynn. He recommended that neither Proceedings nor Electrical Engineering could be continued as an all-member publication. Proceedings had a very eminent research journal image which wouldn't make it readable to most of the members. Electrical Engineering had an unfortunate power image. Power didn't want Proceedings to be killed, because it was a big source of income. Electrical Engineering was already subsidized, and therefore should be eliminated. Acting from this, I took a few words from Flynn's report and came up with a recommendation which Ralph Flynn bought and the board of directors bought later. We decided we should set up a new journal, a warm, personal journal full of pictures, with a technical level just above the median level.

Sell:

How did you come to that average?

Ryder:

Then it was set just above what we got with the BS level of training of that day. We absconded from the student journal with a title they had been debating, the IEEE Spectrum, because we felt that this very adequately described the area of coverage of this new membership journal. Proceedings was continued as a research journal on subscription. Electrical Engineering was applied to a house organ just to retain copyright and protection from somebody else going out and publishing the journal that day and reaping the profit from the journal's past standing. The IEEE Spectrum has mainly followed that format since. Don Christensen has done a very good job of following the structure. Woody Gannett and I went out and hired a professional writer to prepare some of the material for this new journal Spectrum. This was rank heresy to the other editors in the building, but we felt it was necessary.

Sell:

You are speaking of the United Engineering Group and the other societies.

Ryder:

This led to Gordon Friedlander's employment. He has won several awards since that time and is still a consultant and occasional writer for the staff. The present staff has a number of such professional technical writers. A professional journal can't expect to have quality or the properly directed material come in over the transit. When something is hot you want an article right away. These professionals interviewed all sides of an important new topic, not just the one represented by the paper's author. It has worked very well. We also startled people because we adopted the model of the Scientific American. We wanted to have color in covers and in diagrams and pictures inside, so we went out and hired an art editor. That's the beginning of the publication policy. It came out of the agreement that we should have an editor. The editor in the editorial board had no concern with day to day choice of papers. Don Christensen in Spectrum has his own advisory board, which meets once or twice a year. The editorial board does largely management functions, ironing out difficulties between groups, setting advertising policies and things of that nature.

Differences Between IRE and AIEE

Sell:

The two predecessor societies IRE and AIEE, which merged to form the IEEE, were very different organizations. They were dramatically different in terms of committee, structure, organization, and board, and this resulted in very different operational procedures on a day to day and a month to month basis. Since the IRE was a more vibrant, quicker acting group, perhaps that explained why the AIEE was not able to capture the electronics field as quickly and efficiently despite the fact that the IRE was from its beginning more limited to electronics. You know with the benefit of hindsight that the AIEE could have incorporated the IRE in its interests.

Ryder:

I think there were times when that could have happened. The IRE has a fundamental leaning towards science; its work is in physics, and mathematics, while the AIEE leans more toward engineering technology. We should also remember the matter of speedy response. In science, publication is all-important to research. It is very important to get findings printed before anybody else, so the IRE had no requirement for verbal presentation of a paper before publication. The AIEE did have such a requirement. A paper sat for months until there was an opening on a suitable program where it could be presented. After it was presented, the committee chairman approved its publication and so it sat again for months before some headquarters editor decided he had room for it. There were frequently two to even three and four year gaps between the material preparation and its actual publication. To a scientist this is impossible because it means that other people have gotten in way ahead of you. You will find in my genesis article that this is supposed to be contrary to editorial policy. It is supposed to be speedy but reviewed publication. If somebody in Westinghouse develops a transformer with a cubicle core, GE does not want to be surprised by this. They want time to hear about it and to prepare their own remarks or discussions of the paper. Part of the long period between presentation and publication was waiting for written discussions to be received.

The IRE developed predominantly around the professional groups. The AIEE had the professional committees and were not too different in their areas of responsibility but the AIEE's committee budgets were negligent. The IRE's professional groups generated a lot of their own funds through membership and publications. The professional group system was a great invention because it allowed a professional society to keep its services growing but also to keep income from its members climbing to pay for those services. These groups were subsidized, but not completely. They did and still do generate most of their own funds. The technical committees didn't do this. I think the unfortunate aspect of the present organization is the arrangement of these groups into small constituencies each with a vice president representing a piece of this constituency. They made a mistake when they decided these groups should be represented at the board level. They should have had several vice presidents or directors who were representatives of the technical program. Tying these directors directly to one or two groups was a political mistake, particularly in the case of several directors who were tied to only one group. They have a definite constituency, and if they don't produce what's wanted, the finger is right on them. Whereas a group of several directors at large for the technical program could be much more effective in setting overall program policy. The president has the biggest constituency of all, the whole membership. I reported some of these concerns to the board in December 1974. Various people enjoyed it, but it has not been acknowledged. The board tries to set board policy by setting up long-range planning committees. The first thing that such a committee argues is, "How long is long range?" They spend six months debating that. Then they come up with some program out here on the glittering horizon. Policy should be set by a more remote, more broadly-based group who tells the operating people what to do. The IRE did this in a rather inefficient way. It had the at-large directors responsible for various standing committees. They were the pipelines to the board. This was not too efficient, but it did allow some exercise of rather broad-based judgement.

Sell:

Is there something in exclusively technical training of electrical engineers that makes them good managers?

Ryder:

There is a little grain of truth there. An electrical engineer is not automatically a good manager. He has been trained to look at the overall aspects of a problem and to consider the interactions.

Regionalism and Engineering

Sell:

Sociologists have examined statistics about scientists and engineers and their backgrounds. What is it about midwesterners that makes them such good scientists or engineers?

Ryder:

I had never noticed that.

Sell:

It is absolutely documentable. They come from liberal arts colleges in the midwest.

Ryder:

Well, that was true for John Bardeen and Bill Bratton. My academic experience makes me credit four schools: Ohio State, Iowa State, Illinois and Michigan State. I felt that Iowa State automatically got the best boys. The Iowa State University student had something extra. Most of them were from towns like the Eldoors and Crestons; a lot of them were named Olson, so there weren't very many Smiths or Joneses. I don't know whether to blame or credit the Iowa small town for engineering talent. Perhaps it has to do with Scandinavian backgrounds.

Sell:

Or perhaps the farmboy's closeness to nature.

Ryder:

Yes, but these weren't very often actual farm boys. They were from farming towns.

Sell:

Also the association with farm machinery.

Ryder:

Yes. This is no longer nearly as true. Once every electrical engineer was a farmhand, but this is far from true today. Maybe those Iowa small towns, being rather strict socially, had a better teacher selection for their high schools. Not too long ago a high school teacher was expected to be exemplary in an Iowa small town, part of the Bible Belt.

Sell:

Given that a scientist or technologist is concerned with lawlike behavior of nature, is there a relationship between appreciating lawlike constancy of nature and the consistent authority of a Bible-holding father?

Ryder:

Yes. I think there would undoubtedly be a connection. What you described was a very ideal description of an Iowa small town. Twenty years ago we thought even Cedar Rapids was a very nice small town. Iowa is one of these states in the midwest with one city and many little towns. Iowa State was a land grant school. Having been limited by a rather misguided board of regents, it was not then allowed to have much in the way of liberal arts. It therefore attracted a science-oriented student body. The liberal arts areas were assigned to Iowa City. This is not true today. Iowa State has developed colleges of liberal arts and education. The board of regents learned not to isolate engineers and agriculture on a campus. They had to give students a chance to broaden out.

Sell:

This is a consistent interest of yours: the creation of breadth and freedom in education.

Ryder:

No one can predict the educational desires and needs of all the kids. No matter what rules are set up, the students will beat you to meet their needs somehow.

Sell:

Thank you very much Dean Ryder. I certainly appreciate this opportunity to speak with you.

Ryder:

I wish I'd given more knowledge and less words.

Sell:

I am sure that future historians of the postwar period are going to benefit greatly from the comments you have made. This terminates the interview with John Douglas Ryder, August 22 and 23, 1979 in Atlanta, Georgia. This has been part of the oral history project sponsored jointly by the history committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Center for the History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics.