Department History (Engineers)

6 Motivated by the emergence of the digital computer, Professor John R. Ragazzini did seminal work on sampled-data systems and early digital control into the 1950s.

Professor Ralph J. Schwarz, later to become vice dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, began his affiliation with the department as a student in the 1940s and made major contributions to all its activities throughout his career. Among the first group of Ph.D. recipients during the postwar period, Schwarz (Ph.D., 1949) and Professor Lotfi A. Zadeh (Ph.D., 1949) were both encouraged by Ragazzini. A new degree, the doctor of engineering science, was established in the engineering school, and in 1953 Eliahu I. Jury became its first recipient in the department. Working with Professor Jacob Millman, who joined the department in 1952, and with Schwarz and Zadeh, Ragazzini established an environment conducive to research and graduate education.

That period became a veritable golden age of activities in systems and controls at Columbia. Through research publications and textbooks, this faculty group and their doctoral students influenced the development of modern electrical engineering more than their number would suggest. Much of the classical theory of sampled-data control systems was developed at Columbia during the '50s. Pioneering textbooks by Millman in electronics; by Ragazzini, Gene F. Franklin and Jury in sampled-data controls; and by Schwarz and Bernard Friedland in linear systems, made the work of this group known throughout the world. Zadeh contributed pioneering work in the area of time-varying and nonlinear systems, and R. E. Kalman produced his landmark work on optimal filtering and control in the early '60s. Franklin (Eng.Sg.D., 1955), Jury (Eng.Sc.D., 1953), Friedland (Ph.D., 1957) and Kalman (Eng.Sc.D., 1957) were all Ragazzini's students, so the whole group can be considered his intellectual offspring.

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