The University of Illinois formed the honorary society, Eta Kappa Nu, in 1904. Its principal objective is to encourage excellence in electrical and computer engineering; and it conducts programs that reward leadership and good citizenship at both the student and alumni levels. Student chapters undertake numerous projects, including tutoring fellow students and participating in National Engineers Week with technical demonstrations and exhibits. Eta Kappa Nu also recognizes outstanding electrical and computer engineering student, faculty, career engineer and engineering manager accomplishments, irrespective of their Eta Kappa Nu membership. In recent years, it has developed programs and services in cooperation with the IEEE that can be of mutual benefit to members of both organizations. A college chapter invites undergrad and graduate students to join, based primarily on superior scholarship. They may also elect career engineers for “meritorious work in the profession and allied pursuits.”

Eta Kappa Nu will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2004. During its first century, it elected some 120 electrical and computer engineering leaders to its highest grade: Eminent Member. Among the Eminent Members are corporate executives and company founders William Hewlett and Simon Ramo; leaders in government Vannevar Bush and Jerome B. Wiesner; Nobel Prize winners Jack Kilby and Charles Townes; IEEE medal winners and past presidents Ivan Getting and Donald Fink, educators Ernst Weber and Mischa Schwartz; and inventors Lee de Forest and John Bardeen.

One Eminent Member who illustrates engineering excellence and service to the professional community is Frederick Terman. Born June 7, 1900, in English, Ind., Terman studied under Vannevar Bush at MIT, before beginning his lifelong teaching career at Stanford University in 1925. Terman’s research into radio circuits, and his publications, helped establish the academic field of electronics. In 1932, Terman published Radio Engineering, an advanced text that taught how to calculate the performance of radio circuits “with the same certainty and accuracy that the performance of other types of electrical equipment, such as transformers, motors, and transmission lines, is analyzed.” Universities internationally adopted his textbook. Terman wrote two other highly influential books: Measurements in Radio Engineering (1935) and Radio Engineers’ Handbook (1943). Terman is often called “The Father of Silicon Valley.” He received a National Medal of Science, and also the Medal of Honor from the Institute of Radio Engineers. Terman died on December 19, 1982, in Palo Alto, California.

James E. Brittain

School of History, Technology, and Society

Georgia Institute of Technology


Submitted by Dick Reiman, Historian

Copyright 2004 IEEE. Reprinted with permission from the IEEE publication, “IEEE-USA News & Views”, March 2004.