In Memoriam: December 2013

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

27 December 2013
ObitStevens Photo: MIT

Kenneth N. Stevens
Acoustics pioneer
Life Fellow, 89; died 19 August

Stevens was a pioneer of speech acoustics, including its production, perception, and processing.

For nearly six decades, he studied the connection between engineering and linguistics to grasp what creates the vocal sounds people produce and why many languages generally rely on similar patterns of sound. In 1972 he published his quantal theory, which suggests that humans naturally prefer speech sounds that are easier to produce, such as the vowels a, i, and u and the consonants b, d, and g. His research was helpful in the design of speech-recognition equipment.

Stevens began his career in 1952 as a researcher at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (now BBN Technologies, a subsidiary of Raytheon), in Cambridge, Mass. He left in 1954 to join MIT as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. He was promoted to associate professor in 1957 and full professor in 1963. He spent the rest of his career at MIT, retiring in 2007 at the age of 83.

He received the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1999 for “leadership and pioneering contributions to the theory of acoustics of speech production and perception.”

He was honored with the 2004 IEEE James L. Flanagan Speech and Audio Processing Award for “fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of acoustic phonetics and speech perception.”

Stevens, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering physics in the 1940s from the University of Toronto, earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1952 from MIT.


obitWillems Photo: Wikimedia

Jan C. Willems
Professor emeritus
Life Fellow, 74; died 31 August

Willems was professor emeritus at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, where he specialized in control systems and theory.

Willems was an assistant professor in MIT’s department of electrical engineering from 1968 to 1973. During that time, he studied optimal control and the algebraic, nonlinear Riccati equation, which arises in the context of infinite-horizon optimal control problems in continuous or discrete time. In 1973 he joined the University of Groningen as a mathematics professor. He was named professor emeritus in 2003.

He was a cofounder of the journal Systems and Control Letters (published by Elsevier), which debuted in 1981, and was its managing editor until 1994. He was editor in chief of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics’s Journal on Control and Optimization from 1989 to 1993.

Willems was president of the Dutch Mathematical Society from 1994 to 1996. In 1995 he cofounded the Dutch Network of Systems and Control (now the Dutch Institute of Systems and Control), a graduate school for students from the Netherlands’ nine university departments active in systems and control theory and engineering.

A member of the IEEE Control Systems Society, Willems received the 1998 IEEE Control Systems Award for “seminal contributions to control theory and leadership in systems research.”

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Ghent, Belgium, he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1965 from the University of Rhode Island, in Kingston, and a Ph.D. in the same subject in 1968 from MIT.


obitandrews Photo: National Academy of Engineers

Frederick T. Andrews 
Former IEEE Communications Society president
Life Fellow, 86; died 15 September

Andrews held a number of IEEE leadership positions, including 1986 president of the IEEE Communications Society.

During the 1970s he was chair of the society’s Transmission Systems and Electronics Product committees. Andrews served as the first vice president of the IEEE Foundation, established in 1973. In 1992 he became director of IEEE Division III and chair of the IEEE Strategic Planning Committee.

Andrews began his career in 1948 as a researcher at Bell Telephone Laboratories. He was appointed laboratory director in 1962 and came to be involved with many of the company’s pioneering innovations as phones moved from vacuum tube–based technologies to solid-state and digital transmission systems.

In 1979 he was promoted to executive director and was given the task of resolving the systems issues associated with the evolution of digital telephone networks. He pioneered a technique in the early 1980s to eliminate cross-talk interference from digital transmissions.

When the U.S. government ordered the breakup of Bell Labs in 1984, he became one of the founding corporate officers of Bellcore, a now-defunct subsidiary, in Livingston, N.J. He retired in 1990.

Andrews was honored with the 1998 IEEE Haraden Pratt Award for “sustained contributions and commitment to the institute, particularly for leadership in strategic planning and electronic product development.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948 from Pennsylvania State University, in University Park.

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