(Talk) The Victorian “Moon Program” and the Troubled Birth of Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineers are the children of a failure so profoundly embarrassing that we don’t even talk about it. Certainly, most engineering curricula don’t. But history is important. In an act of boldness that could only result from foolish arrogance, the first transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in the late 1850s. Mainly designed by a medical doctor, the cable perhaps predictably failed almost immediately. A British Committee of Inquiry convened to assess the disaster noted that the electrical arts lacked even a vocabulary to describe the failures quantitatively. William Thomson was subsequently named the new head of the project, and final success followed in 1866. The volt, ohm and ampere were defined shortly thereafter and electrical engineering finally became a true profession. Thomson, of course, became Lord Kelvin, and was arguably the first professional electrical engineer. This talk describes the mistakes, Thomson’s technical brilliance and the heroics involved in spanning 3,000km of ocean without amplifiers of any kind, and how our profession evolved from that troubled birth to transform human existence in ways that we probably don’t fully comprehend.

Speaker: Thomas H. Lee, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
Date & Time: September 10, 2014 – Wednesday. Talk at 4:00 p.m. Refreshments available from 3:30 p.m.
Location: Kaiser 2020/2030, 2332 Main Mall, UBC
ECE Hosts: Shahriar Mirabbasi and Sudip Shekhar

Speaker Biography
Thomas H. Lee is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University where his research focus has been on gigahertz-speed wireline and wireless integrated circuits built in conventional silicon technologies, particularly CMOS. He holds 57 U.S. patents and has authored The Design of CMOS Radio-Frequency Integrated Circuits (now in its second edition), and Planar Microwave Engineering. He is a co-author of four additional books on RF circuit design, and also cofounded Matrix Semiconductor (acquired by Sandisk in 2006). He is the founder of ZeroG Wireless. He served as MTO Director at DARPA for two years from 2011. He has been associated with Analog Devices and Rambus in the early 1990s where he developed high-speed analog circuitry. He has also contributed to the development of PLLs in the StrongARM, Alpha and AMD K6/K7/K8 microprocessors. He has twice received the “Best Paper” award at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference, co-authored a “Best Student Paper” at ISSCC, was awarded the Best Paper prize at CICC, and is a Packard Foundation Fellowship recipient. In early April of 2011 he was awarded the Ho-Am Prize in Engineering (colloquially known as the “Korean Nobel”).

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