The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 29

History Spotlight

The Prehistory
of Quantum Engineering
by: Michael Geselowitz, Ph.D.,
Senior Director, IEEE History Center

We are on the dawn of an age where the physical
implications of quantum theory will result in new
technologies. Superposition can lead to greater
accuracy in sensing. Quantum states allow quantum
computing to surpass anything made possible by
traditional electronics. Quantum entanglement holds
out the promise of instantaneous and securely
encoded telecommunication. Thus, a field of
quantum engineering is born.
As novel as quantum engineering is, quantum
physics is of course far older, dating at least
to Einstein's quantum solution to explain the
photoelectric effect in 1905 (though Einstein was
later put off by some of the implications of quantum
mechanics). Therefore, not surprisingly, physicists
and electrical engineers have been at work since
at least the 1940s applying quantum mechanics to
real-world problems, particularly in the development
of solid-state electronics. In one of IEEE's oral
histories, laser inventor and IEEE Medal of Honor
winner Charles Townes describes how he coined
the term "Quantum Electronics" for an IRE (Institute
of Radio Engineers, which along with the American
Institute of Electrical Engineers was the predecessor
to IEEE) conference...in 1959. This might be
considered the "prehistory" of quantum engineering.
As a technology advances ever more rapidly, it
becomes increasingly critical to preserve its history,
both to commemorate the past and to provide
lessons for the present and future. That is the role
of the IEEE History Center-an organizational unit
of IEEE that is located at and co-sponsored by
Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ,
USA (home of the Iota Delta Chapter of Eta Kappa
Nu). Overseen by the IEEE History Committee, the

professional staff of the center carry out a number of
programs that promote preservation of, research into,
and communication of the proud heritage of IEEErelated fields.
Most of the information preserved by the History
Center is made available on the Engineering &
Technology History Wiki (www.ethw.org), a site that
we developed and run on behalf of a consortium
of engineering associations. An important section of
the site is the IEEE Oral History collection-over 800
interviews of important engineers whose thoughts
were captured even before their memories become
"history" (one such interview, of Charles Townes, has
already been noted). One of the most interesting
programs administered by the History Center is the
IEEE Milestones Program, which recognizes events in
electrical history-defined as being at least 25 years
old-by the placement of a bronze plaque. There are
to date over 185 Milestones.
Since the Milestones Program is for achievements
older than 25 years, some of this prehistory is
starting to be recognized. One of the most recent
Milestones is the Fermilab Tevatron in Batavia,
Illinois, USA, dedicated in November 2017 (http://
ethw.org/Milestones:Fermilab_Tevatron). Specifically,
Fermilab was recognized for its pioneering use of
superconducting magnets, beginning in 1973, which
made it for almost 25 years the most powerful
particle collider in the world. This power made it
the epicenter of the quantum discoveries in the
1970s and 1980s that are now being applied. At the
dedication ceremony, the History Center conducted
oral history interviews to preserve the memories of
those who were responsible for, and continue to be
responsible for these exciting developments.

One may wonder what quantum engineering
developments of the next 25 years will be
recognized by the IEEE Milestones program?

HKN.ORG

29


http://www.ethw.org http://ethw.org/milestones:fermilab_tevatron http://ethw.org/milestones:fermilab_tevatron http://www.HKN.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018

Contents
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - Cover1
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - Cover2
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - Contents
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 4
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 5
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 6
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 7
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 8
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The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 28
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 29
The Bridge - Issue 2, 2018 - 30
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