In Memoriam: July 2008

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

8 July 2008

Morgan Sparks
Bell Scientist
Life Fellow, 91; died 3 May

 

Morgan Sparks was a scientist at Bell Telephone Laboratories, in Murray Hill, N.J., for 30 years. He spent another 10 years at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Sparks made important contributions to the development of the microwatt bipolar junction transistor, which helped make transistors practical enough for common use. The transistor was invented in 1947 at Bell Labs, the research arm of AT&T, headquartered in Murray Hill. Sparks joined Bell Labs after earning his doctorate in 1943 and worked on electrical storage experiments and wartime projects such as developing batteries for electric torpedoes and downed aircraft that could operate in seawater. In 1972, he became president of Sandia. He retired in 1981 and became dean of the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque.

Sparks earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Rice University and a Ph.D. in 1943 in physical chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

 

The following people, though not IEEE members, made significant contributions to the field.

Joseph M. Juran
Pioneer in the field of quality management
103; died 1 May

Joseph M. Juran helped establish the field of quality management and wrote the Quality Control Handbook [McGraw-Hill 1951], which taught manufacturers how to be more efficient and productive. Juran’s work in quality management led to the development of so-called lean manufacturing—an optimal way of producing goods through keeping waste to a minimum. His work also led to the widely practiced Six Sigma processes, which aim to eliminate defects in manufacturing and business.

He also developed the Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80 percent of consequences stem from 20 percent of causes. Today managers use the Pareto principle, named for Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, to help them separate what Juran called the “vital few” resources from the “useful many.” He also founded the Juran Institute, a training and consulting firm, in Southbury, Conn.

Juran received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1924 from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a law degree from Loyola University, in Chicago, in 1935.

In 1979 Juran founded the Joseph M. Juran Center for Leadership in Quality, an organization aimed at providing companies with research and advice on managing quality. He transferred the Juran Foundation and its assets to the University of Minnesota in 1998. The center serves as a resource to leaders, scholars, and students in the field of quality leadership. With Juran’s financial support, the center created a fellowship program for doctoral students conducting research in quality. Fifty Juran Fellows have been named over the past 10 years, many of whom are now faculty members at leading research universities.

 

Joseph Weizenbaum
Pioneer in computer engineering
85; died 5 March

Joseph Weizenbaum developed ELIZA, the famous conversational computer program with which people could hold a typed conversation. He built ELIZA in 1965 while he was a professor at MIT. The program was named after Eliza Doolittle, a working-class character in George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion who is taught to speak with an upper-class accent.

ELIZA worked by paraphrasing and substituting key words in stored phrases. For example, if someone typed, “My head hurts,” the computer’s response would be something like “Why do you say your head hurts?” In 1976, he wrote the book Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation [W.H. Freeman & Co., 1976], which critiqued computer technology and systems that substituted automated decision making for the human mind.

In 1962 Weizenbaum joined MIT as a visiting professor and became a full-time professor of computer science at the school in 1970.

He began studying for a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1941 at Wayne State University, in Detroit, but left the next year to join the Army Air Corps, where he was a meteorologist. After the war, he completed his studies and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Wayne State.

Learn More