In Memoriam: June 2017

IEEE mourns the loss of three members

23 June 2017

John O’Brien

Engineering school dean

Senior Member, 48; died 31 March

O’Brien was executive vice dean of the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, in Los Angeles.

He joined the university in 1997 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. His research focused on nanophotonics and photonic crystal devices. He became a full professor in 2006, and five years later he was appointed Viterbi’s first executive vice dean. He developed several new courses for the university, including electromagnetics for semiconductor photonics and advanced quantum mechanics.

In 1999 O’Brien received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers—the highest honor bestowed by the United States for science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research career.

He was a member of the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility and IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques societies.

O’Brien received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1991 from Iowa State University, in Ames. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in applied physics in 1993 and 1996 from Caltech.


Harry Huskey

Computer pioneer

Life Fellow, 101; died 9 April

Huskey helped develop ENIAC, the first general-purpose programmable electronic computer in the United States. He also designed the G-15, the first computer that could be operated by only one person.

He began his career in the 1940s as a math instructor for the U.S. Navy. He also worked part time on classified government projects at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering, in Philadelphia. One was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and the other was the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer).

Huskey later worked with computer pioneer Alan Turing at the British National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, on the SWAC (Standards Western Automatic Computer), a machine designed to be built quickly and put into operation while the U.S. National Bureau of Standards waited for more powerful computers, like Raytheon’s RAYDAC, to be completed.

Huskey also served as chief of machine development at the Institute for Numerical Analysis, part of the Bureau of Standards.

In 1954 he invented the G-15, a problem-solving computer. He sold the design to Bendix Corp. of Los Angeles. The computer hit the market two years later. At a cost of US $50,000, it was purchased mainly by scientific research firms.

From 1954 to 1967 Huskey was a professor of computer engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where his research focused on programming languages. In 1967 he joined the faculty of the computer and information science program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He directed its computer center for 10 years and was named professor emeritus in 1986.

He was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1967 “for outstanding contributions in education and in the design of computing machinery.” Huskey was a member of the IEEE Computer Society.

He was the first in his family to attend college, earning bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics in 1937 from the University of Idaho in Moscow. He went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in computer engineering from Ohio State University, in Columbus.


George J. Klir

Professor of systems science

Life Fellow, 84; died 27 May 2016

Klir worked at Binghamton University, in New York, for almost 40 years.

Born in Prague, he began his career in 1957 as a researcher at the Computer Research Institute there. Emigrating to the United States in 1966, he joined the University of California, Los Angeles, and later was an associate professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.

In 1969 he joined Binghamton, where his early research focused on systems modeling and simulation, logic design, and computer architecture. He later delved into generalized information theory, fuzzy logic, and fuzzy sets. He also studied a variety of topics in psychology and philosophy. He wrote more than 300 research papers, held a number of patents, and authored or coauthored 20 books including Fuzzy Logic and Mathematics: A Historical Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Klir was chair of the systems science department from 1978 to 1992 and director of the Center for Intelligent Systems from 1994 to 2000.

He was a research fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, in Amsterdam, and in 1980 he was named a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

He retired from Binghamton in 2007.

He founded the International Journal of General Systems in 1974 and served as its editor in chief until 2014. He was also editor of the International Series on Systems Science and Engineering, published by Springer and sponsored by the International Federation for Systems Research.

He received numerous awards including six honorary doctoral degrees, the Medal of Bernard Bolzano in mathematical sciences, and the Kaufmann Prize Gold Medal for excellence in uncertainty research.

Klir was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1995 “for development of the General Systems Problem Solver, reconstructability analysis, and generalized measures and principles of uncertainty-based information.” He was a member of four IEEE societies: Computational Intelligence, Computer, Information Theory, and Systems, Man, and Cybernetics.

He received a master’s degree in 1957 from the Czech Technical University, in Prague. He earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 1964 from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.

Klir is survived by his wife, Milena, and their daughter, Jane. “George was both a gentleman and a scholar who was devoted to his students and the academic community. He epitomized humility. People who met George will remember him as an intelligent and very kind person who enjoyed every aspect of life. For many, he was a model and mentor for professional conduct. He will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”

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