History Activities

HISTELCON 2019 at Glasgow, Scotland

IEEE HISTORY MILESTONES: some proposals in progress

In the IEEE UK and Ireland Section, there are proposals in progress for:

  1.   Superconducting Magnets developed for MRI at Oxford Instuments, Abingdon, with active shielding to make the arrangement practicable for wide medical use
  2.   The medical CAT scanner
  3.   LEO.  The worlds first digital computer for business use (designed and made by LYONS company to support their catering business (1951)
  4.  Word done on the Standardisation of the unit of electrical resistance (the Ohm)

Associated with IEEE Region 1, the first successful transmission of a commercial radio boradcast (1925, March 14th) from London station 2LO, transmitted from Chelmsford to Belfast in Maine, USA.  If successful in getting approval, this would probably involve a plaque at each end.

In Hungary, there is a proposal in progress for the Budapest Metro line no 1 – the first undeground electrical railway in continental Europe, still in operation.  There was many inovations associated with this:

  • it was first using the dig-and-cover tunnel technique – under a main road for 120 years
  • it served as a reference and standard for Boston, Paris and Berlin metros
  • it had a bidirectional motor carriage with two driver’s cabins
  • the boogie included the motor
  • of low floor height (“goose neck” chassis)
  • of low tunnel height, this structure gauge became standard for a long time
  • first application of Siemens traction system in underground metro
  • overlapping rail jointing for smooth gliding

In Germany (in collaboration with the UK and Ireland Section) a proposal to recognise Christian Huelsmeyer for the first invention of Radar.  Note that the word Radar did not come into use until much later, during WW2.

In Sweden, the 40 year anniversary  of video compression, an invention associated with Linkoping University and KTH Stockholm

In Italy, plans for a Milestone for Ferrari’s Induction Motor and the Giorgi System of Units

There are many other good topics for developing History Milestone Proposals around the Sections of IEEE Region 8

Tony Davies

2019 Feb 24th

HISTELCON 2019 in Scotland

Glasgow: squinty bridge

(photo (c) Alan Robertson

The conference Histelcon2019 will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, 18-19th September 2019

It is planned that if successful in being approved, there will be an IEEE History Milestone unveiling at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow on the day before Histelcon2019 starts.

This milestone is about the work done on the Standardisation of the Unit of Electrical Resistance (e.g. the Ohm)

The HISTELCON2019 website is


where the Call for Papers and other information can be found

Papers should be submitted via EasyChair, but those considering the submission of papers are welcome to send the planned titles and a short synopsis directly to me.

Tony Davies

2019 Feb 21st


HISTELCON 2019 will take place at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Scotland on 18-19th September 2019

website:  www.histelcon2019.org

Tony Davies 2019 Feb 18th



HISTELCON 2017 will take place in Kyoto, Japan, in August 2017.

During HISTELCON 2017 it is expected that the location and date of HISTELCON 2019 will be announced.

Therefore, bids to host HISTELCON 2019 should be submitted as soon as possible to the R8 Secretary, and must present a realistic indication of how, where and when the conference would be held, including indicators of support or co-sponsorship.

Tony Davies, 2017 Feb 19th

IEEE Section Naming

About IEEE Section Naming

Tony Davies, 9th June 2014

As a non-political organisation, there is some dislike in IEEE about using words like ‘kingdom’ and ‘republic’ in Section names.  Likewise, few would consider it appropriate to include such phrases as ‘people’s republic of …..’ in a Section name.
On this basis, the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Section, despite being one of the oldest in R8, and having a large number of members, clearly scores badly!  Moreover the usual abbreviation of ‘UKRI’ has occasionally been the sources of congratulations for the good spoken English of a member, by someone who assumes that it is the Ukraine Section.
Long ago, when the formation of the Section was under discussion, it was proposed and expected that it would be called the ‘United Kingdom and Eire Section’.   However, at that time the Irish members indicated their preference for ‘Republic of Ireland’ instead of ‘Eire’.   While the reasons may not have been clear, hindsight shows it to have been correct.  We do not speak of the IEEE Deutschland Section or the IEEE Espana Section, etc.   We normally use the English-language equivalent (e.g. Germany, Spain, etc).   Likewise, ‘Éire’ is the translation into Irish of ‘Ireland’, and ‘Republic of Ireland’ would be ‘Poblacht na h-Éireann’.
The postage stamps of the Republic of Ireland normally have the word ‘Éire’ on them, often with an indication that the name applies to the whole island and not only to the Republic (see the example illustrated in Fig.1), although some do include ‘Republic’ and are bilingual (English/Irish) as illustrated by another example (Fig.2).
By contrast, the postage stamps of Northern Ireland follow the United Kingdom custom of not including any country-name at all (see Fig.3).
Recently it was decided to prefer the abbreviation ‘UK&RI’ to ‘UKRI’ (which at least, should eliminate the Ukraine connection), and a further step has now been taken.  Subject to MGA approval, the name will just become ‘United Kingdom and Ireland’.
Unfortunately this still has some potential for misunderstanding.  Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and so appears to be ‘counted twice’ in the name.  This should present no difficulty to mathematicians and software engineers, who know that if A = {x,y,z} and B = {v,w,x} then A ∩ B = {v,w,x,y,z}.   E.g. in Boolean Algebra and in set theory, the logical AND (∩) allows x to be in both.
However, in everyday English, and especially among those with a political agenda, there will be a risk of an assumption that United Kingdom excludes Northern Ireland (and there are some who wish that was the case).   The alternative name of ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ overcomes this difficulty, but no doubt some would object to the adjective ‘Great’ in an IEEE Section name, especially for a geographically-small place.
There are some IEEE members whose geographical expertise is limited (including some in Regions 1 to 6) who may suppose that Scotland and Wales are parts of England;  they might become even more confused by the planned Section name change, especially if, at future time, Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom.   The Section might then be renamed the IEEE Wales, England and Ireland (WEI) Section, but could that lead to demands from the somewhat independent Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark asking to be included in the name, perhaps as the ‘WEIIoMGJAS’ Section.
In Regions 1 to 7, it is common for Section names to be names of large towns or a city or perhaps a group of associated towns.   For a large city there could be several Sections.   This is very different from Region 8, where the norm is ‘one country = one Section’.  Rules made in Regions 1 to 7 are therefore not invariably directly applicable to Region 8, needing care to prevent possible misunderstandings.
Names are important in human societies, and are particularly linked to politics, in which IEEE should not become involved.   Thus, name changes (for example, from St. Petersburg to Leningrad and back to St. Petersburg) are very important, and may lead to difficulties and anomalies.  We have, in Region 8, the IEEE Czechoslovakia Section, even though there is no longer a country with that name. If split into two, one part would presumably have to be called the IEEE Czech Republic Section, so bringing in the unwelcome ‘republic’ word.
Remember the many cities which have ‘people’s palaces’ (sometimes buildings where the ‘people’ were forbidden to go) and ‘streets of unity’ (when sometimes there was little or no unity).
Those who attended the recent Region 8 Committee meeting may have walked along Andrássy Street, and perhaps few knew that it used to be called Népköztársaság street, which if nothing else, was a good test of the pronunciation skills of visiting foreigners.  This street has had other names, including Stalin street.  So these issues are often very important and emotive, but are ones which IEEE is wise to steer clear of, and IEEE should take care not to risk creating unintended animosities.

                                          Copy of DSCF5319

Fig 1: Republic of Ireland stamp showing the whole island, and name ‘éire’

                   Copy of DSCF5318

Fig.2:  Bilingual stamp, including the ‘Republic’ designation.

                               Northern Ireland

Fig. 3:  Northern Ireland stamp, with no country name.




Computer History Conference

Third IFIP WG 9.7 Conference on the History of Computing and Informatics in the Former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation (SoRuCom 2014)


This historically-oriented conference was held according to the resolution of the Second International Conference on the History of Computers and Informatics in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation (SORUCOM-2011), successfully held in Velikiy Novgorod. The year 2014 features several anniversaries: 120th anniversary of Norbert Wiener, the originator of cybernetics; 90th anniversary of John Backus, the author of FORTRAN; and 80th anniversary of Nicklaus Wirth and of Sir C. A. R. Hoare. This is also the year of 30th anniversary of the Program Systems Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences (Pereslavl-Zalessky), and 30th anniversary of the journal «Mikroprotsessornye sredstva i sistemy», whose editor-in-chief was Academician A. Ershov. Also included in the conference topics are dates and events of the period 2011-2013: 110th anniversary of Academician S.A. Lebedev and Corresponding Member I.S. Brook (2012), 90th anniversary of M.A. Kartsev, the creator of M-2, and 90th anniversary of Corresponding Member S.S. Lavrov (2013), among others.

Kazan, Tupolev State Technical University

13-17TH OCTOBER 2014



History Milestones Beginner’s Guide

A Region 8 Beginner’s Guide to IEEE History Milestones

Holography Plaque - Copy

The IEEE GHN website is now a part of ethw.org (engineering+technology wiki) and has an explanation of the process of submitting a proposal for an IEEE History Milestone, and provides a list of answers to some FAQs.  However it seems that there is not a good understanding of the procedure among members and even active volunteers across Region 8.  This document is therefore provided as an introduction and supplement to the available information.

What they are

The IEEE Historic Milestones are recognitions of significant inventions or achievements in the field of interest of IEEE which is considered to have had an important impact.  The invention or achievement must have taken place at least 25 years ago.  There is no upper limit, e.g. it can be, and often is, long before the origin of IEEE (or its AIEE and IRE predecessors).

The Milestones are not a recognition of or award to a person, although often the particular invention or achievement is inseparably associated with a specific person (for example, Holography with Dennis Gabor, the Poulsen Arc with Valdemar Poulsen or Maxwell’s Equations with James Clerk Maxwell).

The Poulson-Arc Oscillator       Used  for Radio Transmitters,      Denmark, 1902  Poulsen-Arc_Radio_transmitter

Evaluation and Approval

It is inevitable that in some cases there are differences of opinion among historians about the originator of something important, for example the answers to such questions as ‘”Who invented radio?”, “Who invented the telephone?”, “Which was the first computer?”   Answers provided may depend upon nationalistic or political influences.

A rigorous evaluation of proposals for IEEE History Milestones is therefore important, and as a result the time between an initial proposal and the final approval by the IEEE Board of Directors takes typically a couple of years.  Adjustment of the proposed title or citation may be necessary and there is then an additional time needed to order, cast in bronze and ship the plaque to the destination in readiness for the installation and dedication ceremony (at which it is usual for the IEEE President or other senior IEEE volunteers to be invited).

Consequently, to see the process through from the first idea to a successful conclusion needs patience and at least one enthusiastic ‘champion’ who will oversee the activity.

The Process:  access to the GHN Website

Proposals for IEEE History Milestones are submitted via the IEEE Global History Network (GHN) website within the ETHW website.   The champion must therefore have Login permission.  All IEEE members can easily get this, by clicking on ‘create an account’ on the Home Page, and choosing an ID name and password, which should be activated within one business day.  Note that this is NOT the name/password which is used for the member’s IEEE web account. They are completely independent (though a particular user might choose to use the same name and or password for both).    Non-members of IEEE can normally also get Login permission, after a review process which may take about a week.

Submission and assessment

The usual procedure is for the champion to enter the proposed title and initial factual data about the proposed Milestone.  The information may be entered in stages, with some required data added later as it becomes available.  For example, it is necessary to have a letter from the owner of the location where the Milestone plaque is to be installed, confirming their willingness to accept it, and to keep it available and accessible to visitors who wish to view it and from the Chair of the Section which will take long term responsibility for it.

Once the proposal has been entered , it will be monitored by IEEE History Center staff, who can provide advice to the proposer(s).   An advocate (often a present or past member of the IEEE History Committee) will be appointed to monitor the progress, seek opinions about its validity, and in due course, make a recommendation about it to the History Committee.  Anyone with login access may contribute to the ‘Discussion’ topics about a proposal, which are open for all to see and to comment upon.  This is strongly encouraged to ensure the widest possible assessment.

The History Committee normally meets face-to-face twice per year, with the Milestone proposals which are ready for a decision on the agenda.   They are then each discussed, and if possible, approved, including the title and citation.   The approved proposal then goes to the next meeting of the Board of Directors for endorsement.   It is unlikely but not impossible that the Board would not approve or ask for changes, but in case this occurs the order for casting the plaque is not normally placed until after the Board of Directors meeting.


Costs and responsibilities                                    .

The plaque is normally regarded as the responsibility of the Section in which it is located.   It might be proposed in the framework of a Society or other IEEE OU, but since it has a geographical location, it is natural that the Section at that location should take the long term responsibility for it.  Any exception to this would have to be strongly justified.  The Section therefore has to pay the cost of the casting and shipping of the plaque, although naturally there is encouragement to obtain sponsorship both for these costs and for the cost of the installation and dedication ceremony.

It is often appropriate to have some kind of technical lecture or seminar associated with the ceremony and it is an opportunity to seek good publicity for IEEE and its activities.

The location of the plaque may be in a public place or on private property, but it is expected that the owner of the location will provide written assurances that the plaque will remain in place and that bona-fide visitors will be allowed access to see it.   Some arrangements for long-term insurance against damage might be needed in some locations.

The location should be as close as possible to the place where the invention or achievement being recognised took place.  Because of the passage of time and the possible change of the buildings and activities in the vicinity, this is sometimes impossible and some reasonable alternative has to be devised.

When the milestone has been installed and the dedication taken place, the basic information about it should be readily accessible on the ETHW website, and it should be included on the interactive map of IEEE Milestones.  The material submitted during the proposal process remains on the website as a permanent record.   It is wise to check the map for possible errors from time to time.

 Version 1.3

Prepared  by Prof Tony Davies, UK&I Section, in 2013, and then updated on19th February 2017.


History Activities

GHN became part of ETHW

The absorption of the IEEE’s Global History Network (GHN) into the Engineering Technology History Wiki (ETHW) http://ethw.org broadened the coverage but made finding some of the IEEE-relevant material (especially the pages and procedures related to History Milestone Proposals) more difficult. The eight other organisations in ETHW are mostly far more ‘USA centred’ than IEEE, half of them having “American” as part of their title. Their presence therefore unfortunately makes ETHW look much more of a USA operation than was the case with the GHN. It is clear that despite some failings in that respect, IEEE has a long tradition going right back to the early days of IRE of aiming to be a transnational organization with a worldwide membership all having equal rights and involvement in governance and elections.

Clearly any organisation with a name commencing with ‘American …….’ cannot be expected to have credibility as a transnational organisation with equivalent status of members in all countries.

Tony Davies, 2017 Aug 17th

History of IEEE Sections and of Region 8

IEEE History

As part of the IEEE Jubilee Year, Sections in Region 8 were encouraged to create their Section Histories and make these available.  Some Sections have produced detailed histories while some have done very little.

To ensure the log-term preservation of these Section Histories, they should generally be hosted on the IEEE Global History Network (GHN) website, now a part of ETHW.ORG, which makes them available to all.

In addition to Section Histories, there has been a project (still underway) to record Oral Histories of past Region 8 Directors, and to put the text transcripts of these on the GHN website.  The audio recordings are preserved and access may be requested from the IEEE History Center staff.

History Milestones in R8

Technology History

Region 8 has been the location of many important engineering and scientific achievements and inventions in the subject-fields and areas of interest of IEEE.

These may be recognised by IEEE History Milestones, which take the form of a bronze plaque in a publicly accessible location at or near where the achievement or invention took place.  The installed Milestones can be found from an interactive map and a searchable list in the Global History Network (GHN) website.

The submission of proposals for more Milestones in the Sections of Region 8 is  encouraged:  from the date of submitting an initial proposal to the installation ceremony in successful cases typically takes at least two years, because of the need to evaluate the proposal, which is done by the IEEE History Committee with the collaboration of the IEEE History Center.  Final approval is given by the IEEE Board of Directors.   The cost of a Milestone Plaque is normally borne by the Section, although sponsorship is often possible.

Examples of possible topics for future Historic Milestones in Region 8

Hungary Section:  (A)  Budapest ‘Metro no 1’.  The first electrical underground metro train in continental Europe.  (B)  Electrical Energy meter for alternating current:   measuring kilowatt-hours.   Ottó Bláthy, in 1889.   (C) Invention of toroidal transformer and transformer distribution system for electrical supply.   Zipernowsky, Déri and Bláthy, 1878.  (D) Electrical Locomotive traction system with 3-phase rotating transformer, about 1894,  used later in 1930 using a single phase alternating current supply converted to three-phase.  Kalman Kando.

Benelux Section:    In 1924 Willem Einthoven was awarded the Nobel Prize for his important contributions to society, including the development of the first cardiograph (somewhere between 1893 and 1906) in the Netherlands.

France Section: Invention of Pulse Code Modulation by Alec Reeves in Paris, 1938.

UK and Ireland Section:  (B) 1901 invention of vacuum cleaner by Hubert Cecil Booth in London.  (C) 1970s invention of CT scanner by Godfrey Hounsfield (later received Nobel Prize for this). (D) Leo Computer – first use of digital computer for commercial data processing, by Lyons company at their premises at Cadby Hall in west London.   Site no longer exists. (E) Dolby method for sound recording and reproduction, which made the Compact Cassette feasible for music recording (F) Harrison’s clock.

There are,  of course, many more examples of possible Historic Milestones in other Sections of Region 8.

There could be History Milestones for Euler’s invention of Graph Theory, and for Kirchhoff’s Laws, both of which had a huge impact on many topics within the scope of IEEE.   The location in this case is clear:  the town of Königsberg – now Kaliningrad.  A complication is that at the time, it was part of Germany and now is part of Russia – so whose Milestones would they be?

Tony Davies,   History Activities Coordination, 25 Jan 2015, updated 19 Feb 2017

[tab: Assessment of Milestone Proposals]

Assessment of Milestone Proposals

When a Milestone Proposal is submitted, it will be seen on the Global History Network, and ANY IEEE Member may made comments via the Discussion Tab, if they have login-access to the Global History Network.  To get this access, see the Home Page, on the right hand side, where the Login process is explained.  Normally, any IEEE member may obtain login-access, which gives the permission to edit material, enter new material, etc.   Without login-access, you have only read-access and not write-access.

The assessment of Milestones is important and relies on the input of knowledgeable people, to improve the quality of the proposal, and to draw attention to errors and inaccurate claims.

R8 Committee members and all other IEEE members in Region 8 are encouraged to look at the Milestone Proposals in progress and to make suggestions and comments to assist the IEEE History Committee in reaching a good decision about each one.

Tony Davies,

R8 History Activities Coordination

UK & Republic of Ireland Section (now UK and Ireland Section, from 2014).

2013 September 2nd