Wall of Honor Commemorates 100th Anniversary of IEEE’s Highest Award

Display pays tribute to Medal of Honor recipients

9 October 2017

IEEE marked the 100th anniversary of its Medal of Honor with the unveiling of its Wall of Honor memorial, which pays homage to recipients of IEEE’s highest award. Each of their names is engraved on a panel, and a wall-mounted touchscreen lets visitors search for information about all the awardees. The Wall of Honor, unveiled last month, is located in the IEEE Operations Center, in Piscataway, N.J., and was conceived and executed by the staff of the IEEE Awards program.

The IEEE Medal of Honor was established in 1917 by the Institute of Radio Engineers, one of IEEE’s predecessor societies. The award is presented to an individual for an exceptional contribution or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. It consists of a gold medal, a bronze replica, and a cash honorarium.

In the reception that proceeded the ceremony, Mary Ann C. Hellrigel, IEEE History Center institutional historian and archivist, gave a brief history of the medal. She referenced a letter written by Alfred N. Goldsmith, the 1928 IRE president, to 1938 medal recipient J.H. Dellinger, who had asked him about the medal’s design. Goldsmith explained that American sculptor Edward Field Sanford Jr. designed the emblem to represent the relationship between electric current and the magnetic field.

“I suppose the best interpretation of both the emblem and the medal would be the thought that through the electric and magnetic forces, associated in space, there is born the electromagnetic wave, which is the carrier of our radio communications,” Goldsmith wrote.

Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the wall of honor were IEEE President Karen Bartleson and IEEE Fellows Alfred Y. Cho and Robert H. Dennard. Cho had received the award in 1994; Dennard was the 2009 recipient.

Cho received the medal for “seminal contributions to the development of molecular beam epitaxy.” It is widely used in the manufacturing of semiconductor devices. Dennard was awarded the medal for his “invention of the single-transistor Dynamic Random-Access Memory and for developing scaling principles for integrated circuits.” DRAM opened the door to small personal computers and many of today’s electronic products.

“The IEEE Wall of Honor stands as a testament to the diverse array of engineers and scientists—all truly innovators and visionaries of their time—who exemplify the mission of IEEE of advancing technology for the benefit of humanity,” Bartleson said in her speech.

Cho told The Institute the wall was an amazing and beautiful exhibit. “I have seen a lot of walls that have people’s names on them, but they quickly run out of space. This one still has a lot of room for growth,” he said. “I think the people who designed it were looking into the future.”

“It was an amazing experience to see names of all the winners of the highest IEEE award displayed in one attractive space,” Dennard said. “To see my name among those of the well-known pioneers of electricity and electronics was deeply pleasurable, yet truly humbling. It was also a time to reflect on how much the world has been changed in a century by this special group of contributors and all the talented people in IEEE.”

Also present at the ceremony was Fellow Vincent Poor, vice president of development for the IEEE Foundation, which sponsors the Medal of Honor. “This wall showcases the hard work, dedication, and prestige of our members and volunteers,” Poor said.

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