In Memoriam: September 2016

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

29 September 2016

Erich Gunther

Cofounder of EnerNex

Fellow, 57; died 18 June

Gunther was cofounder and CTO of EnerNex, an electric power research and consulting firm in Knoxville, Tenn.

During high school he was an electronics repair technician and a projectionist at a movie theater in Erie, Pa. He later worked as a camera operator for WICU-TV in Erie, where he received awards for his work as a cameraman and a field reporter. He was also an amateur radio operator.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Gannon University, in Erie, he was a member of the nearby Millcreek volunteer fire department.

He earned a master’s degree in EE in 1983 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y. After graduation, he went to work as an electrical engineer at McGraw-Edison Power Systems in Cannonsburg, Pa. In 1988, he joined Electrotek Concepts in Knoxville, Tenn. In 2003 he cofounded EnerNex.

The following year, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Energy’s GridWise Architecture Council—a group of power experts working to standardize the architecture of the smart grid—and later served as its chair. He was a founding member of the IEEE Smart Grid initiative and was past chair of the IEEE Power & Energy Society’s Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee. He was also a member of the IEEE Communications, IEEE Computer, and IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement societies as well as the IEEE Standards Association.

Gunther was elevated to Fellow in 2012 “for contributions to the development and standardization of techniques for electric power quality.”

To learn more about his life and career, visit the IEEE Power & Energy society’s tribute page.


Robert Fano

Computing pioneer

Life Fellow, 98; died 13 July

Fano was a professor at MIT, where his early work on time-sharing systems, which allowed multiple people to use a computer at the same time, helped pave the way for the more widespread use of computers.

During World War II, he worked on microwave components at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, in Cambridge, Mass., and on radar technologies at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, in Lexington.

Fano worked with Claude Shannon on information theory before developing—with Life Fellow Fernando Corbató, another professor at MIT—the Compatible Time-Sharing System, one of the earliest time-sharing setups. The success of the CTSS, completed in 1961, helped persuade the university to launch Project MAC, a pivotal early center for computing research. Fano served as the founding director of Project MAC, which has become MIT’s largest interdepartmental research lab, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

He was involved with multiple research labs at MIT, including the Laboratory for Computer Science, the Research Laboratory for Electronics, the MIT Radiation Laboratory, and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He helped develop MIT’s first curriculum for computer science, which is now the school’s most popular major. He served as associate head of MIT’s electrical engineering and computer science department from 1971 to 1974. He was named professor emeritus in 1984.

He was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1954 “for contributions in the fields of information theory and microwave filters.” Among the awards he received were the 1977 IEEE James H. Mulligan Jr. Education Medal and the 1976 IEEE Claude E. Shannon Award. Fano was a member of the IEEE Computer and IEEE Information Theory societies.

Born in Italy, he studied at the School of Engineering of Torino. He fled Fascist Italy for the United States in 1939 and earned a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D., both in EE from MIT, in 1941 and 1947.


Carolyne M. Van Vliet

Professor of electrical and computer engineering

Life Fellow, 87; died 15 July

Van Vliet was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Florida International University, in Miami.

She began her teaching career in 1956 as a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. From 1969 to 1995 she was a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Montreal and a senior researcher at its Center for Mathematics Research. She specialized in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics, fluctuations and stochastic processes, quantum transport in condensed matter, and electron behavior in nanoscale quantum devices.

She moved to Miami in 1995 to teach at Florida International. She was also an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Miami. She authored a graduate textbook, Equilibrium and Non-Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics, in 2008.

Van Vliet was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1991 “for contributions to the analysis of noise phenomena in electronic and photonic devices.” She was a member of the IEEE Electron Devices Society.

She received bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in physics—all from the Free University of Amsterdam—in 1949, 1953, and 1956.

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