AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIII , No. 1, Spring 2001


Improved Online Access to Historical Resources
at the IEEE History Center

By Michael N. Geselowitz, Director

Telstar receiving antenna
Telstar receiving antenna at Goonhilly Downs, Cornwall. Photo courtesy of MIT Museum.

The history of physics can hardly be separated from the history of its applications to electrical, electronic and information engineering, and allied fields. The IEEE History Center vigorously preserves, researches, and promotes the legacy of electrical engineering, computing, and all related fields of interest to the members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE). The largest professional technical society in the world, IEEE represents some 400,000 practitioners in the fields of electrical and computing engineering and science. Founded in 1980 at IEEE's Manhattan headquarters, it was relocated to the campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in 1990. The IEEE History Center is co-sponsored by these two institutions. The fields of interest of the IEEE and its History Center include many areas of concern to physicists, such as antennas and propagation, geoscience and remote sensing, lasers and electro-optics, magnetics, microwave theory, nuclear and plasma sciences, and superconductivity. The Center's mandate includes the history of these technologies, the history of the engineering professions, and the institutional history of IEEE and its predecessor organizations.

The Center has traditionally carried out this work through a number of programs. Of special interest is our collection of oral histories of prominent participants in the field. These include a number of physicists, for example: Elizabeth Laverick, a pioneering woman in the field of microwaves; Physics Nobel Prize laureate Arno Penzias; Herman Schwan, internationally recognized for his work in biophysics as well as biomedical engineering; and Charles Townes, one of the developers of the MASER.

The Center staff also conduct historical research and present articles in IEEE publications, historical publications, and publications of interest to the general public. They publish monographs, a newsletter, and collections of papers; hold conferences; prepare exhibits; collect historical images; maintain an archive of unpublished IEEE papers; answer reference requests; and host relevant Web pages on the IEEE Web site. In addition, Center staff teach classes at Rutgers and participate in the other educational activities there. Finally, we support volunteers in other historical activities of IEEE such as the selection of a postdoctoral fellow in electrical history, the awarding of a historical paper prize, and the designation of sites as Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing.

In the past few years, the History Center has been doing an increasing portion of its business electronically. Abstracts and transcripts of more than half of its almost 400 oral history interviews (including all those mentioned above) can now be found on-line, as can several historical articles and research guides, a threaded bulletin board for historical discussion and exchange, a list of IEEE Milestones, past issues of newsletters, rotating special features, and more information on our programs, products and services.

Traditionally, our main audiences have been professional engineers and historians and, to a lesser extent, journalists and decision makers. In keeping with a recent increasing emphasis at IEEE on reaching the broader public and, particularly, pre-college youth, and in keeping with the goal to deliver products and services more broadly through use of Internet technology, our latest initiative is to build a "virtual museum". The IEEE Virtual Museum will explore and present the global and social impact of technology. It will also demonstrate the relevance and significance of engineering and engineers to society, through a focus on electro- and information technologies and their history. Using the latest internet-based techniques, it will seek to educate the general public, with an emphasis on younger generations. The IEEE Virtual Museum is slated to open in early 2002, and in the meanwhile its progress can be tracked on the regular IEEE History Center Web pages.

The IEEE History Center is located on the Rutgers University College Avenue Campus, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538, phone 732-932-1066, fax 732-932-1193, We especially welcome our colleagues and historians in physics and allied fields to visit us online at

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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
Phone: 301-209-3165
American Institute of Physics 2003 American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740-3843. Email: Phone: 301-209-3100; Fax: 301-209-0843