The Victorian Moon Program: The First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable and the Birth of Electrical Engineering

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Friday, September 27, Giedt 1003, 12:10pm-1:00pm

Speaker: Thomas Lee
Stanford University

Host: Professor Jane Gu


Electrical engineers are the children of a failure so profoundly traumatic that we don't even talk about it. Massachusetts paper magnate Cyrus Field drove the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable, and chose a medical doctor to design it. He was rewarded with the results one would therefore expect. An astonished British board of inquiry found that the electrical arts lacked even a basic vocabulary to quantify what went wrong. William Thomson was subsequently named the new head of the project, and success followed in 1866 -- a decade after Field's first attempt. The volt, ohm and ampere were standardized shortly thereafter and the profession of electrical engineering was born. Cornell and MIT offered the first degrees in the field soon after, modeling curricula on the work of Thomson -- arguably the first professional electrical engineer -- who, of course, became Lord Kelvin. EEs have been making exponentially greater mischief ever since.


Prof. Tom Lee received his degrees from MIT, where his thesis work in the late 1980s culminated in the world's first CMOS radio. He's been at Stanford since 1994, and recently completed a tour of duty as Director of the Microsystems Technology Office of DARPA. He is the 2011 recipient of the Ho-Am Prize in Engineering (informally known as "the Korean Nobel") for his work on RF CMOS. He maintains an unhealthy interest in obsolete technology, as evidenced by his collection of thousands of vacuum tubes, kilograms of early semiconductors, and over 100 classic oscilloscopes. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the violin as an effective means of pest control.

Speaker contact information

* Please contact Jane Gu , if you would like to meet the speaker.

About the seminar:
This seminar is part of the Fall EEC 290 seminar series and is open to all.