[From the 1977 Awards Banquet Program in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Twin Cities Section]
By Fred Hird and Harry Bruncke
In September 1884 the Franklin Institute, a scientific society, sponsored the International Electrical Exhibition in Philadelphia. A group of representatives from several local electrical clubs and societies in and around New York felt that the electrical engineers should establish a national electrical society to greet the engineers, electricians and others who would attend the Exhibition from Europe and other countries. Therefore, Dr. N. S. Keith, a chemist interested in electricity, issued a call for a formation meeting April 15, 1884 for such a Society. The response was remarkable since 71 charter members attended and signed the document for formation. One month later, May 13, 1884, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers was in operation with Dr. Norvin Green as President.
Included in the group of signers were such famous names as Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Brush, Thomas Edison, Franklin Pope, Elihu Thompson and Edward Weston.
The purpose of the AIEE as stated was: "to promote the Arts and Sciences connected with the production and utilization of electricity and the welfare of those employed in these Industries: by means of social intercourse, the reading and discussion of professional papers and the circulation by means of publication among members and associates of information thus obtained."
In 1902, the institute formulated rules for the establishment of Sections and Student Branches outside of New York. A group of electrical engineers in the Twin Cities, including George Shepardson, Edward Burch, Frank Springer and Charles Pillsbury requested the institute to establish a Section in this area.
On April 7, 1902, a charter was issued for a Minnesota Section, covering the territory: part of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North and South Dakota. Dr. George Shepardson was the Chairman from 1902 to 1905. This was the second Section of the Insitute, Chicago being the first.
Prior to 1912, the "wireless" boys were becoming more and more active in the new radio field. For some reason the Institute members were reluctant to provide services which the radio "operators" requested. So the Institute of Radio Engineers was established in 1912. Among the charter members were such famous names as DeForest, Sarnoff, and Goldsmith. Robert Marriott was the first President on May 13, 1912.
The Twin Cities Section of the IRE was established in 1941 with C.A. Culver as Chairman. The Territory of the Section was quite similar to the Minnesota Section of the AIEE.
The two Institutes covered the same general technical fields with AIEE placing more emphasis on power and IRE on communications. Both established separate student Branches at colleges and universities. The students who were members of the Branches of the two Institutes could not justify the fact that two Branches were needed. So they formed Joint Branches which caused confusion in the two Institutes as to who would pay what part of the activities of the Joint Branches.
The students at their national meeting petitioned for a merger of the two Institutes. Out of this came a vote of the membership of both Institutes to merge with 85% in each Institute voting "yes". On January 1, 1963, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers was launched. Dr. Ernst Weber was the first President of the IEEE. Today the membership is approximately 170,000.
The Twin Cities Section of the IRE and the Minnesota Section of the AIEE became the Twin Cities Section of the IEEE. Mr. Al Martin was the Chairman of the IRE Section and Mr. Don Peterson was the Chairman of the AIEE Section and by a flip of the coin Mr. Peterson became the first Chairman of the merged Sections. The present membership is approximately 2,000.
The May 1984 Radiator reprinted the above history with the additional information:
"The above article first appeared in the Awards Banquet program on the occasion of the Twin Cities Section 75th anniversary in 1977. While today's world wide membership stands near a quarter of a million and our local membership is over 3000, this brief history is still relevant today."