In Memoriam: January 2010

IEEE mourns the loss of the following members

8 January 2010

William Wesley Peterson
Mathematician and educator
Life Fellow, 85; died 6 May

William Wesley Peterson devised the cyclic redundancy check, a mathematical function that can detect accidental changes to computer data. An error-correcting code, it is commonly used in digital networks and storage devices.

Peterson began his career in 1954 working with computers at IBM. A few years later he left to teach electrical engineering at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. He later became a visiting associate professor of electrical engineering at MIT, where he developed error-correcting codes for digital computers and peripheral devices. He left there in 1964 to become an EE professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he remained until his death.

Peterson published a paper in 1961 in the Proceedings of the IRE, titled “Cyclic Codes for Error Detection,” in which he described cyclic codes from a polynomial viewpoint. The information that he published in his textbook Error-Correcting Codes [MIT Press, 1961] is regarded as the launch of algebraic coding theory, still the fundamental theory for error-correcting codes today. The textbook is still widely used today. That information became the basis for all modern error-correction algorithms and data encryption.

He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Leslie A. Geddes
Biomedical engineering pioneer
Life Fellow, 88; died 24 May

Leslie A. Geddes developed several inventions that have formed the cornerstone of much of today’s implantable medical device technology.

He began his career as an instructor in electrical engineering and neurophysiology at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, where he worked until 1952. He left there to work on his Ph.D. at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, where he also taught physiology, later becoming director of the school’s division of biomedical engineering. While at Baylor, he was also an adjunct professor of physiology at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical Veterinary College, in College Station, and at the University of Texas dental branch in Houston.

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., recruited Geddes in 1974 to establish a biomedical engineering research center to develop new clinical technologies in cardiac care, orthopedic implants, medical imaging systems, drug delivery, and tissue engineering. He founded the university’s Hillenbrand Biomedical Engineering Center (now the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering), where he taught biomedical engineering for 17 years. He retired in 1991, but continued to teach and perform research at the university until his death.

Geddes made many biomedical technology breakthroughs during his career. In 1956 he developed the physiograph, a physiological monitoring system for astronauts. He and two colleagues patented a device in 1982 that detects and corrects potentially lethal cardiac arrhythmia. Geddes and another team patented a conductivity catheter in 1984 that measures cardiac output, and in 1986, Geddes copatented a pocket-sized, personal electrocardiograph. He and others at Purdue recently created a method for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation via the abdomen that has several advantages over standard CPR, including reducing the chance of injury to the patient.

Geddes earned a bachelor’s degree in 1945 and a master’s degree in 1953 in electrical engineering from McGill University, Montreal. He received a Ph.D. in physiology in 1959 from the Baylor University College of Medicine.


William F. Schreiber
Image technology designer
Life Fellow, 84; died 21 September

William F. Schreiber spent most of his career teaching image processing at MIT.

He started out designing telemetering circuitry in 1947 at Sylvania, a lighting manufacturer in Bayside, N.Y. In 1953 he moved to Technicolor Corp., in Hollywood, Calif., where he worked on applying information theory to video bandwidth reduction and built a television-based simulator that could be used for printing color film.

He left Technicolor in 1959 to join MIT as an associate professor of electrical engineering. He was appointed director of the university’s Advanced Television Research Program in 1983. The program focused on innovations in video technology, including digital television and high-definition television. Schreiber was named professor emeritus at the institute and retired in 1990.

He founded Electronic Character Recognition Machinery Inc., Tewksbury, Mass., in 1969 to develop optical character recognition. He designed, among other products, a computer-based color-printing system for newspapers. His imaging-technology company continues to serve the graphic communications industry.

Schreiber earned a bachelor’s degree in 1944 and a master’s degree in 1947, both in electrical engineering from Columbia University. He received a Ph.D. in applied physics in 1953 from Harvard University.


Robert Beckwith
Founder of electric components company
Life Fellow, 90; died 25 October

Beckwith was the founder of Beckwith Electric, a Largo, Fla., company that designs and manufactures devices for generators and transformers used by utility companies.

Beckwith began his career in 1955 as a utilities technology engineer with the Power Line Carrier section of General Electric Co., in Schenectady, N.Y. He moved to Syracuse in 1961 to manage the section’s computers and communications, and left in 1967 to found Beckwith Electric and Beckwith Electric Research.

He was secretary of the IEEE Florida West Coast Section from 1979 to 1980 and its vice chairman in 1980 and 1981.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Syracuse University.


Nirmal K. Bose
Systems and signal processing professor
Life Fellow, 69; died 23 November

Nirmal K. Bose spent more than 40 years teaching electrical engineering.

He joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1967 as a professor of electrical engineering and mathematics. He left in 1986 to join Pennsylvania State University, University Park, where he taught signal processing. He founded the university’s Center for Spatial and Temporal Signal Processing, where he and his students conducted research on multidimensional systems, robust system design, and neural network design.

Bose authored and coauthored several books, including Applied Multidimensional Systems Theory and Applications [Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982] and Digital Filters: Theories and Applications [Elsevier, 1985].

He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, in Kharagpur, India, a master’s degree from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, New York, all in electrical engineering.

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