In Memoriam: January 2014

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

29 January 2014

ObitNichols Photo: Bangor Daily News

Clark Nichols
Power engineer
Life Fellow, 99; died 4 August

Nichols was an engineer for 41 years at Leeds and Northrup Co., a manufacturer of power control equipment for utilities, in Philadelphia.

During World War II he helped supply power to manufacturing plants needed for the war effort, in the southeastern United States.

While at Leeds and Northrup, Nichols helped develop the Early Bird computer in the early 1950s, which was used by several utilities to improve their power control. Nichols retired from the company in 1976.

He also served on a commission to investigate the great Northeast blackout, a massive power outage that occurred in North America on 9 November 1965, leaving five northeastern states and a Canadian province in darkness.

He was a member of the IEEE Control Systems, Industrial Electronics, and Power & Energy societies.

Nichols earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from MIT.

ObitGerke Photo: Renee Gerke

John F. Gerke
Fellow, 85; died 10 August

Gerke was a consultant for the last four decades of his 60-year engineering career.

He began working in 1952 as assistant superintendent of new construction at Yarrow, a major shipbuilding firm, in Victoria, B.C., Canada. He left in 1962 to join the Canadian Department of Defense, also in Victoria. Three years later Gerke was hired as assistant director of engineering by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction, in Seattle. In 1973 he left to start Columbia Sentinel Engineers, a consulting firm, also in Seattle, that specialized in power-system design, load analysis, short-circuit current analysis, and marine corrosion studies. Gerke served as president until 1981. He then worked as a consultant for several construction and shipbuilding companies.

He was a member of the IEEE Industry Applications and Power & Energy societies.

Gerke earned degrees in nuclear power engineering and computer engineering from the University of Washington, in Seattle.

ObitRobinson Photo: The Chattanoogan

Alvin R. Robinson
Electrical engineer
Life Member, 85; died 8 September

Robinson was an electrical engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, a company owned by the U.S. government that provides flood-control and electricity-generation services. It also helps spur economic development for approximately 9 million people living near the Tennessee River in five Southern states.

Robinson was a member of the IEEE Power & Energy Society.

He received a bachelor’s degree in industrial education in 1957 from Hampton University, in Virginia. The following year he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Howard University, in Washington, D.C.

ObitOliner Photo: Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Arthur A. Oliner
Microwave pioneer
Life Fellow, 92; died 9 September

Oliner was an entrepreneur, professor, and researcher in the field of microwave theory and applications. 

In 1954 he cofounded Merrimac Industries, in West Caldwell, N.J. Now a subsidiary of Crane Aerospace and Electronics, the company manufactures radio-frequency and microwave signal-processing components, as well as subsystem assemblies for defense, security, wireless, and satellite communications. He was director of the company from 1961 until 2013.

Oliner became a professor of engineering in 1957 at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now the Polytechnic Institute of New York University), in New York City. From 1966 to 1974 he served as head of the school’s electrical engineering department, and from 1967 to 1982 he was director of its Microwave Research Institute. Oliner conducted pioneering research in the areas of guided waves, open periodic structures, large phased-array antennas and radiation phenomena, and microwave integrated-circuit discontinuities. He was named professor emeritus in 1990.

The IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society honored Oliner with its 1967 IEEE Microwave Prize, 1982 Microwave Career Award, and 1993 Distinguished Educator Award. He also received the IEEE Heinrich Hertz Medal in 2000 for contributions to the theory of guided waves and antennas. In 2008 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by his alma mater, Brooklyn College, in New York City, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1941.

Oliner was a member of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation, Microwave Theory and Techniques,  Photonics, and Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control societies.

Oliner also earned a doctoral degree in physics in 1946 from Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. In 2003 he received an honorary doctorate from the Tor Vergata University of Rome.

ObitWheelon Photo: National Academy of Engineering

Albert D. Wheelon
Developed U.S. spy planes and satellites
Life Fellow, 84; died 27 September

Wheelon was a physicist whose work on satellites for the CIA in the 1960s helped lay the groundwork for planes and satellites used by the U.S. military to spy on Soviet military operations during the Cold War.

Wheelon began his career in 1952 at TRW, an automotive and aerospace company in Euclid, Ohio, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2002. There, he worked on missile guidance systems. After the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite in 1957, the CIA hired Wheelon to examine photos of Soviet rockets taken by U-2 spy planes and interpret data from Soviet missile tests.

In 1962, at the age of 34, he became the CIA’s first director of science and technology. He helped develop and deploy spy planes, including the Lockheed A-12 and the SR71 Blackbird. Wheelon also worked on several generations of Corona reconnaissance satellites.

He left the CIA in 1966 to become vice president of engineering at Hughes Aircraft Co., an aerospace and defense contractor acquired by General Motors in 1985. Wheelon oversaw the development of more than half of the U.S. satellites sent into orbit. He became CEO and chairman of the board in 1987, and retired in 1988.

He was also a member of the U.S. President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1983 to 1988, and served on the commission that investigated the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Wheelon received several awards from the U.S. government, including the 1966 Distinguished Intelligence Medal and the 1993 Baker Medal for Excellence in National Security Affairs. In October 2013, the U.S. National Academy of Engineers awarded him its Simon Ramo Founders Award posthumously, for “outstanding contributions to aircraft, spacecraft, and communication satellite technology that enhanced national security and strengthened the U.S. economy.”

He was a member of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society.

Wheelon received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Stanford University in 1949 and a Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 1952.

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