In Memoriam: December 2016

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

28 December 2016

Uwe Helmke

Professor of mathematics and computer science

Fellow, 63; died 1 March

Helmke was a professor at Würzburg University, in Germany, where his research focused on dynamics and control theory. He helped create the university’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Mathematical Applications in Science and Technology.

Before joining the university in the early 1990s, he was a researcher at Universität Regensburg, also in Germany, where he worked on algebraic geometry and linear systems. He authored or coauthored six books including Optimization and Dynamical Systems. He helped organize numerous conferences and events, including annual control theory workshops at the Oberwolfach Research Institute for Mathematics.

Helmke was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 2009 “for contributions to geometric methods, tracking and estimation in control systems.”

He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1983 from the University of Bremen.


Panatoya “Titsa” Papantoni-Kazakos

Chair of university EE department

Fellow, 71; died 8 July

Papantoni-Kazakos was chair of the department of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Denver.

In 1973 she began working at Rice University, in Houston, as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. Later she became the university’s first female professor of engineering. She left Rice in 1977 to join the technical staff at Bell Labs, where she developed an algorithm for a distributed monitoring system for the reliable performance of high-speed communication networks. Her algorithm has been widely used by Bell Labs and AT&T to make data networks more reliable. After a year at Bell Labs, she left for the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where she was, again, the first female engineering professor.

In 1981 she took a leave of absence to serve as a program officer for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. In 1986 she joined the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, where she was a professor of electrical engineering until 1993. For one year in 1994 she was an electrical engineering professor at the University of Ottawa, and then returned to the United States to teach at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. In 2000 Papantoni-Kazakos left to become chair of the EE department at the University of Colorado, where she remained until her death.

She was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1991 “for contributions to communication networks, and to detection and estimation theory.” She was a member of the IEEE Communications and IEEE Information Theory societies as well as IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu, the organization’s honor society.

Papantoni-Kazakos was born in Piraeus, Greece, and earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical and mechanical engineering in 1968 from the National Technical University of Athens, where she was one of only two women in her program. She then moved to the United States, where she earned a master’s degree in 1970 from Princeton and a Ph.D. in 1973 from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.


Leo L. Beranek

Acoustics pioneer

Life Fellow, 102; died 10 October

Beranek was a pioneer of acoustics who helped to found Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (now BBN Technologies), the acoustics consultancy responsible for implementing the first version of the ARPANET.

After earning a Ph.D. in acoustic engineering at Harvard in 1940, Beranek taught the subject at Harvard and then MIT from 1947 to 1958. In 1948 he cofounded BBN in Cambridge, Mass., with two other MIT professors. Beranek was president of BBN from 1952 to 1969 and then served as its chief scientist until 1971.

The company’s first contract was to design the acoustics of the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City. BBN was contracted to improve the acoustic environment in such landmark concert venues as the Koussevitzky Music Shed at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass., and Philharmonic Hall (now David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Beranek helped develop noise standards for jet airplanes during the 1950s that required planes to have noise-reducing mufflers and altered takeoff patterns. He also helped set the standards for acceptable noise levels in office buildings, schools, and factories.

The substantial calculations required for acoustics work led to an interest, and later business opportunities, in computing. Beranek hired J.C.R. Licklider, a pioneering computer scientist from MIT, to lead the effort. The company developed one of the best software research groups in the United States and won several critical contracts with the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies.

In 1969 BBN won a contract from the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the first computer-based network, ARPANET. By demonstrating the ability to share data and messages through vast computer networks, ARPANET paved the way for the creation of the Internet.

Beranek’s most successful book, Acoustics, published in 1954 and updated several times, remains a text for acoustic engineering students around the world. His 1962 book, Music, Acoustics, and Architecture, developed from his analysis of 55 concert halls around the world, also became a classic.

He founded a Boston television station, WVCB, in 1977. From 1983 to 1986, he was chairman of the board of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he remained a trustee.

Beranek was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1952 “for his contributions in research, teaching, and administration in the fields of acoustics and speech communication.” He received the 2013 IEEE Founders Medal “for leadership as a cofounder of a premier consulting firm that shaped modern acoustical practice and laid the groundwork for the Internet, and for public service.” He was a member of the IEEE Signal Processing Society.

He received bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics in 1936 from Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He went on to earn a master’s degrees in physics and communications engineering and a Ph.D. in acoustics engineering from Harvard.

To read transcripts of Beranek’s oral histories recorded in 1996 and 2005, visit the Engineering and Technology History Wiki.

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