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History Conference Celebrates 125th Anniversary of IEEE and Its Technical Societies That Helped Drive Technology Innovations

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Marsha Longshore
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Rik Nebeker
IEEE History Center
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History Conference Celebrates 125th Anniversary of IEEE and Its Technical Societies
That Helped Drive Technology Innovations
To be Held 5-7 August in Philadelphia, Pa. – Site of IEEE’s First Technical Meeting

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – 29 July 2009 – IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional association, is holding a Conference on the History of Technical Societies as part of its 125th Anniversary celebration in 2009. The conference will take place
5 -7 August in Philadelphia, Pa., – the location of the association’s first technical meeting in 1884. It includes a series of guest speakers, workshops, an evening reception commemorating the event, and the dedication of an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing.

The three-day IEEE Conference on the History of Technical Societies includes a variety of sessions that represent IEEE’s vast global reach and wide variety of technical disciplines, ranging from robotics and automation and power and energy to biomedical and oceanic engineering. The lineup of speakers includes current and former IEEE Presidents, and representatives from a select number of IEEE’s 38 technical societies. The work of IEEE Society members, through the production of meetings and conferences, publications, educational programs, and other activities, has been vital to advancements in technology over the past century.

“Technical societies have been a primary conduit for sharing knowledge of technological advancements, most often through gatherings at conferences or through publications,” said Peter Silverberg, Communications Chair, IEEE Philadelphia Section. “Through this conference, we hope to highlight the importance of the contributions of the IEEE and other engineering societies throughout history and how they helped foster technological innovation around the world; as well as reaffirm the important role that the IEEE Philadelphia Section played in driving many of these ideas forward.”

Philadelphia was selected as the location of the conference since IEEE, then called the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, held its first technical meeting there in 1884. Technical co-sponsors for the conference are the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Drexel University, the Department of the History and Sociology of Science of the University of Pennsylvania, and the IEEE Philadelphia Section.

In connection with the conference there will be an IEEE anniversary celebration on the evening of Thursday
6 August at the Down Town Club, adjacent to Independence Hall in the historic district of Philadelphia. This event, consisting of a reception, talks, and banquet, will allow conference attendees and others to join in celebrating the past achievements of IEEE and in looking forward to the role IEEE members will play in meeting the challenges of the future.

Scheduled conference speakers include: 2009 IEEE President John Vig and past IEEE Presidents Joseph Bordogna and Richard Gowen. Henry Petroski, popular author and professor of both engineering and history at Duke University, will give the banquet address entitled "History and Engineering: Building Bridges Together."

The conference takes place on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday 5 August, and on
the campus of Drexel University on Thursday and Friday, 6 and 7 August. The campuses are adjacent.

Registration begins on Wednesday at 8:00 am in Cohen Hall, 249 South 36th Street, at the University of
Pennsylvania. All Wednesday sessions are in Cohen Hall.

All sessions Thursday and Friday are in Bossone Research Enterprise Center, 3128 Market Street, of Drexel University. The reception and banquet Thursday evening are in the Down Town Club, atop the Public Ledger Building, 6th and Chestnut, in the Historic District.

In addition, Friday, 7 August, there will be a dedication of an IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing for the book “Experiments and Observation on Electricity,” written by Benjamin Franklin. The book is a collection of letters to London's Peter Collinson which outlined Franklin's ideas about the nature of electricity and how electrical devices worked, and new experiments to investigate lightning. This important book led to a better understanding of charges, stimulated Franklin's work on lightning rods, and made him an internationally known figure. The event will be held at the Library of the American Philosophical Society, 105 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

Information, further details and registration forms are available on the conference Web site:

Registration is available for the conference, the banquet, or the events.

About IEEE
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.), the world’s largest technical professional association, is commemorating its 125th anniversary in 2009 by “Celebrating 125 Years of Engineering the Future” around the globe. Through its more than 375,000 members in 160 countries, IEEE is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Dedicated to the advancement of technology, IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed nearly 900 active industry standards. The organization annually sponsors more than 850 conferences worldwide. Additional information about IEEE can be found at http://www.ieee.org.

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