In Memoriam: September 2009

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

4 September 2009


Plasma Diagnostics Pioneer


AGE: 80

DIED: 15 April

Robert L. Hickok Jr., was at the forefront of R&D in particle beam diagnostics for magnetically confined plasmas.

Following a stint as a postdoctoral research fellow at Yale from 1957 to 1959, he joined Mobil Research Labs, where he began experimenting with heavy ion beam probes (HIBP) as a plasma diagnostic tool. Mobil charged him with starting up a program relevant to nuclear fusion research, where he used his background in particle beams to develop better plasma diagnostics, eventually working out the basic concepts behind HIBP.

He left Mobil in 1971 to become a professor of electrical engineering at his alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y. He retired in 1991 but served as professor emeritus until 1997.

He was a member of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society and also a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Hickok earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from Rensselaer, a master’s in 1953 from Dartmouth College, and a Ph.D. in 1957 from Rensselaer, all in physics.



MIT Researcher, EE Professor


AGE: 93

DIED: 4 June

Louis D. Smullin spent many years working to expand the field of electrical engineering by helping establish and lead many of MIT’s research labs.

He began his career in 1936 in the high-voltage laboratory of the Ohio Brass Co., in Barberton. He left there in 1938 to design and test photomultiplier tubes at the Farnsworth Television Co., in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Smullin joined MIT in 1941 and spent most of his career there. He headed the Transmit-Receive and Duplexer department of the famed Radiation Laboratory, where he supervised the development of methods for testing microwave transmit-receive tubes. This work was essential to the development of the airborne radar used during World War II. He also established and headed the Microwave Tube Laboratory of the Research Laboratory of Electronics in 1947 and helped plan and set up the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He became head of the Radar and Weapons Division of Lincoln Lab in 1952.

Smullin then turned to teaching, becoming an associate professor of electrical engineering at MIT in 1955 and a professor in 1960. He also was appointed head of the Active Plasma Systems Group of the Research Laboratory of Electronics. He headed the EE department from 1966 to 1974 and then returned to teaching. He retired from MIT in 1986, was named professor emeritus, and conducted research on cold fusion until 2001. He is also credited, along with others, with carrying out the LunaSee experiment in which laser pulses were transmitted to the moon for the first time and detected upon their return.

He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1936 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a master’s in 1939 from MIT.



Engineering Entrepreneur


AGE: 73

DIED: 5 June

Jhong “Sam” Lee was well known in Korea and the United States as an expert in electrical engineering and communications and for his entrepreneurial leadership.

He left his home in Kiljoo, Korea (now the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), at 15, to join the army of the Republic of Korea and fight in the Korean War. He was captured but freed by members of the Oklahoma National Guard. This experience inspired him to accept a scholarship from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman.

He held several positions in academia. From 1965 to 1968, he was assistant professor of engineering and applied science at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. He left there to become associate professor of electrical engineering at The Catholic University of America, also in Washington, where he taught until 1973.

He also worked in military and space communications as a consultant on antisubmarine warfare and spread-spectrum communications at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C. His research was once classified for military use but is now widely used by the public in the Global Positioning System and in code division multiple access mobile phone technology.

Lee was also an entrepreneur, forming several companies in Korea and the United States. In 1976, he founded the communications consulting firm J. S. Lee Associates, in Rockville, Md. He served as its chairman and CEO until his death.

He was a member of the IEEE Communications, Information Theory, and Vehicular Technology societies.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1959 from the University of Oklahoma, and master’s and doctoral degrees in 1961 and 1967 from George Washington University, all in electrical engineering.

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