Armstrong Memorial Lecture, Nov. 7, 2008
On Nov. 7, 2008, Prof. Tom Lee from Stanford University presented an Armstrong Distinguished Lecture at the Electrical Engineering Department of Columbia University in New York. The talk was entitled “A Wildly Nonlinear History of Wireless”. The talk was co-sponsored by the Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation and the New York Chapter of the IEEE Solid State Circuits Society.
Professor Lee entertained a large audience of students, faculty, and engineers on the early developments in wireless technologies. He explained how the field evolved from the early naïve ideas to use air as a conductor to build wireless telegraphs, to the experiments with spark gaps to demonstrate electromagnetic waves that lead to a more serious and science-based approach to wireless communications. The subsequent quest for better detectors yielded the first applications of semiconducting devices and tube-based electronics.
He illustrated with various examples how progress was the fruit of systematic investigations by various researchers, but even more so, how serendipity played a prominent role in developing the field. Some scientists and engineers were driven by the desire for a better understanding, while others saw the prospects of transforming a scientific invention into a global business. The detailed historic account featured the well-known players but also revealed the important contributions of less well-known inventors. The talk was spiced with interesting personality facts and discussed the rivalry between different wireless inventors leading all the way to patent disputes and legal action.
The audience was inspired by Prof. Lee’s engaging presentation on developments of more than a century ago that offer important analogies and lessons for current complex technological developments.
The presentation was followed by a reception offering the opportunity for attendees and students to meet and discuss their favorite wireless topics.
Prof. Tom Lee, Stanford University, (left) being introduced as the Armstrong Memorial Lecturer by Prof. Peter Kinget, Columbia University.
Prof. Tom Lee (Stanford) presenting his Armstrong Memorial Lecture.
Prof. Tom Lee (center) with Columbia graduate students