After World War II, engineers from the MIT Radiation Laboratory and the Harvard Radio Research Laboratory and others wartime enterprises were setting up new companies on Long Island. At the same time, Long Island was undergoing a major housing boom. Jim Shephard of Sperry Gyroscope, who was Chairman of the New York Section of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE), sensing these trends, decided that it was time to set up the first subsection of the IRE on Long Island. In the spring of 1947, he enlisted the aid of Eric Ibister and Harold Wheeler to organize it. With a rapidly growing membership of 1000 from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties (from the 17,000 total IRE memberships) interest was strong. When the first meeting was held, its popularity was assured.
The first issue of the Pulse was published in September 1952 with Jim Craib as its editor. Long Island became a full Section in May 1953. The IRE started to form professional groups in the early 1950’s. Our Section’s first Professional Group chapter was Microwave Theory & Techniques which continues to this day. This was soon followed by the Professional Group on Instrumentation. A perusal of our Section’s website will show that many more group chapters exist today.
The IRE and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) decided to merge in 1963 and form the IEEE. With the addition of the AIEE, our Section’s membership rose by 1200 to 4000. Loss of the Queens members moved the geographical center east so that the Route 110 corridor tended to be where most meetings were held. This is still true today.
Throughout all of the years of its existence, the Section has emphasized the distribution of technical knowledge and has sponsored many meetings and symposia. In 2004, we initiated the Long Island Systems, Applications and Technology (LISAT) Conference which takes place each May at Farmingdale State College. Charles Rubenstein, Region 1 Director (2011/12), proposed this conference and thanks to an active steering committee, it has been a big success ever since.
Long Island has always had an influence far greater than our numbers suggest because we speak, we write, we act and we get things done. Our Section has had many noteworthy engineers. Our list of Long Island Fellows reads like a Who’s Who of high technology. If you examine the list of past Section Chairmen, you see both technical giants and managers.
Our members have been generous in their support of the Section and many have served in Regional and Institute positions. Four of our members have served as president of the Institute. Art Loughren (1956, while it was still the IRE), Ernst Weber (1963), Henry Bachman (1987) and Joel Snyder (2001). Several have served as Directors of Region1. They are: Peter Eckstein (2012/13), Louis Luceri (1998/99), Art Rosoff (1976/77), Joel Snyder (1992/93) and Victor Zourides (1988/89). Our Section puts strong emphasis on recognizing accomplishments of its members through its Awards Program. Many of our deserving members have received Institute, Region 1 and Section Awards.
Some of our members made major contributions that are internationally recognized. A few examples are:
Harold Wheeler was an early radio pioneer who also made major contributions to microwave and antenna theory.
Eugene Fubini developed some of the first radar countermeasures systems; he later served as Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Kennedy administration.
George Litchford had many of the basic patents relating to Air Traffic Control.
Ivan Frisch’s contributions to computer communications makes him one of the Internet Pioneers.
Jerome Swartz’ innovations had major impact on bringing optical bar code scanning into practical use.
Other famous Long Island Section people are described in detail in the 2013 Awards Program Brochure when the Section celebrated its 60th Anniversary.
In the late 1960’s, many in our Section recognized that we could also help our members through increased professionalism. We sought better, fairer and more ethical ways to do our jobs. We sought to convince employers that they and their customers benefited when they treated their engineers in a fairer, more ethical manner. Over the next ten years, many Long Island leaders promoted several areas of new emphasis, such as the Code of Ethics, Employment Practices, fair and equitable pensions, patent rights, etc. Leaders like Art Rosoff, Joel Snyder, Vic Zourides, Bob Barden and Bob Bruce, to name a few, were so persuasive that concurrence of a majority of the membership supported a constitutional change to included professionalism in the activities of the Institute.
In the 1980’s, Bill Wilkes alerted us to another segment of the membership that was not being served, the self employed entrepreneurial member. Readily accepting the challenge, the Section encouraged the formation of the IEEE’s first Consultants’ Network. Its immediate success brought emulation in a number of sections. Irwin Weitman pushed for Institute-wide recognition and the Alliance of IEEE Consultant’s Networks was set up by the Institute and is now the fastest growing activity in the Institute.
The number of members hit a peak during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s when companies such a Sperry, Fairchild and Grumman employed many engineers. While our membership is somewhat reduced, we remain vibrant because of many new high technology companies in fields such as medical and biological engineering and nano technology have emerged.
As impressive as the Long Island Section’s accomplishments have been over these many years, the rapid rate of technological change has increased the need for a strong professional society like the IEEE. It plays an essential role in helping members stay current and optimizing their career performances. We feel certain that our Section’s members will take a strong and increasing role in the formation of Institute policy that will continue to make it an outstanding professional organization that is even more responsive to the needs of its members.
Acknowledgments: This overview has been based, in part, from material supplied by past Section Historians Charles Dean, Greg Stephenson and Rod Lowman for the IEEE Long Island Section’s 50th Anniversary Brochure of 1997 October 25. The comments of Nikolaos Golas, Region 1 Historian are greatly appreciated.