In Memoriam: September 2017

IEEE mourns the loss of five members

28 September 2017

Sady Rafael Zurita Ravago

Electrical engineer

Life Member, 68; died 23 November 2016  

Ravago was president of Electrificación del Caroní (now part of Corporación Eléctrica Nacional), an electric utility in Venezuela. There he helped design, plan, and implement a 765-kilavolt transmission system.

A professor of electrical engineering at the Universidad Nacional Experimental Politécnica, in Caracas. He enjoyed baseball, music, chess, and poetry.

He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, in Caracas, and a master’s degree in analysis and control of transmission systems from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, in England.

His daughter, Elizabeth, wrote that his family and friends “will always remember Sady Rafael as the genuine, honest, hard-working and committed man he was—always betting on Venezuela and a brighter future for its people.”

Thomas Nelsen

Cancer researcher

Life Member, 90; died 17 March

Nelsen was professor emeritus at Stanford, where he pioneered life-saving advances in the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He earned a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1951 and completed his internship and residency at the University of Chicago, where he became an assistant professor in 1959.

When Nelsen joined Stanford the next year as a member of its Hodgkin’s lymphoma research program, the concept of radiation treatment for cancer was still in its infancy. He conducted diagnostic surgical procedures during clinical trials that helped therapists pinpoint where to target the experimental radiation treatments from a linear accelerator designed for medical use.

After retiring from Stanford in 1988, he helped develop the holmium laser, which is used for minimally invasive surgery, primarily to treat prostate cancer.

Until 1999 he served as a board member and advisor at Coherent, a laser manufacturer in Santa Clara, Calif.

He was a member of the IEEE Computer and IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology societies.

Nelsen had many interests, including going to the opera, duck hunting, horseback riding, photography, and piloting airplanes.

Elmer W. Madsen

Electrical engineer

Life Senior Member, 86; died 18 May

Madsen was an electrical engineer, an entrepreneur, and an environmentalist.

He began his career at Superior Electric, in Bristol, Conn. Months after being hired, he was called to active duty with the U.S. Army Signal Corps. For two years, he served as a lieutenant in Heidelberg, Germany, operating a large communications center.

He returned to Superior and was eventually promoted to chief engineer. He worked there for two decades before joining North American Phillips Co., a manufacturer of lighting products in Cheshire, Conn., as technical coordinator. He left after 18 years to join Nidec, an electric motor company in Torrington, Conn., as director of research and development.

He also founded three companies: Locknetics, Delta Controls, and Positive Controls.

During his career, he was granted 20 patents related to small motors, fans, and circuit controls, including one for a protective device that prevents an electrical shock when a hair dryer comes in contact with water.

Madsen helped found the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center, in Bristol, and served as director of the Roaring Brook Nature Center, in nearby Canton. He served on the board of directors for the Central Connecticut Mental Health Association and was a trustee of the Plainville YMCA and of the Nutmeg public TV station. A longtime member of the Bristol Rotary Club, he was its secretary, treasurer, and president over the years.

He was a member of the IEEE Industrial Electronics and IEEE Magnetics societies.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Paul M. Chirlian


Life Fellow, 87; died 11 July

Chirlian was professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans.

He began his career in 1956 at New York University, in New York City, as an engineering instructor. He was soon appointed professor in the electrical engineering department at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, N.J. There he conducted prolific research in signal processing, specifically in network and filter synthesis. He published 28 books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages.

He left Stevens in 1993 to join the University of New Orleans as professor and chair of the department of electrical engineering. In 2001 he was named associate dean of research and graduate programs for the university’s College of Engineering. He was named professor emeritus in 2003.

Chirlian was elevated to IEEE Fellow in 1979 “for contributions to engineering education through the writing of innovative engineering textbooks.” He was a member of the IEEE Circuits and Systems, IEEE Education, and IEEE Signal Processing societies.

He earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from New York University in 1950, 1952, and 1956.

Robert K. Roney

Hughes Electronics executive

Life Fellow, 94; died 4 August

Roney was an engineer at Hughes Electronics Corp., in Glendale, Calif., for 38 years.

He joined Hughes’ guided-missile division in the early 1950s and later was promoted to head of the systems analysis and aerodynamics department. He was named technical director of the engineering division, where he helped develop the Surveyor and Syncom communications satellites. He was named manager of the space systems division in 1968 and company vice president in 1973. He retired in 1988 as senior vice president.

He served as president of the Santa Monica Symphony from 1970 to 1992.

Roney was named IEEE Fellow in 1974 “for leadership and inspiration in the exploration and applications of space technology.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1944 from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy during World War II on the battleship USS Washington and fought in the battle of Okinawa in Japan. After the war, he earned doctoral degrees in electrical engineering and physics in 1950 from Caltech.

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