ECE History

In 1867 what was to become the University of Illinois was established as the Illinois Industrial University. The Polytechnic Department, later the College of Engineering, was one of the University's first six departments. The Department of Physics was established in 1889, and in 1891, the first courses in electrical engineering were offered in the first electrical laboratory. The first degrees in electrical engineering were awarded in 1893 and the Department of Electrical Engineering became the fifth department in the College of Engineering in 1898.

ECE ILLINOIS has a rich history that has shaped the department to what it is today. The department is ranked as one of the best in the world, boasting innovative faculty, hands-on classroom experiences, and ground-breaking research. Read on to see how ECE ILLINOIS’ great legacy developed.

ECE Timeline

Decade: 2000s | 1990s | 1980s | 1970s | 1960s | 1950s | 1940s | 1930s | 1920s | 1910s | 1900s | 1800s

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Popescu 3-D images live cells

Associate Professor Gabriel Popescu uses white-light diffraction tomography to capture 3-D images of cells with no dyes. This means the cells remain alive, allowing researchers to study them in three dimensions over time. As a result, researchers can observe how cells respond to specific drugs or treatments.

2014
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ECE ILLINOIS opens new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building

After decades of discussion and planning, and three years of construction ECE ILLINIOS opens the doors of the new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building on the north side of the Illinois campus. The building is open for classes in August, and state and university officials dedicate it in October. (Watch the video that opened the dedication.) The building is a new home for the department, which was located for more than six decades in Everitt Laboratory.

2014
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New PostChicago Innovation Exchange announces partnership with Engineering at Illinois

The University of Chicago’s new Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE) announces its partnership with Illinois' College of Engineering.

The CIE, in collaboration with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, unites Chicago Booth students and entrepreneurship with top-tier engineering talent and encourages the development and retention of start-ups in Illinois, both in Chicago and Urbana-Champaign.

2014
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Feng demonstrates fastest U.S. error-free data transmission over fiber optic networks

Professor Milton Feng demonstrates fastest U.S. error-free data transmission over fiber optic networks, using laser devices called oxide VCSELs. They can carry data faster and in greater quantities than traditional electrical cables. 

2013
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$30 million from STARnet establishes SONIC Center

The Semiconductor Technology Advanced Research network, or STARnet, provides Illinois $30 million in funding to create the Systems On Nanoscale Information fabriCs (SONIC) Center. Professor Naresh Shanbhag leads the center.

Funded by the Department of Defense and U.S. semiconductor and supplier companies as a public-private partnership, STARnet projects help maintain U.S. leadership in semiconductor technology vital to U.S. prosperity, security, and intelligence.

2013
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Cangellaris named dean of Engineering at Illinois, Sanders becomes ECE department head

ECE Department Head Andreas C. Cangellaris is chosen to be the next dean of the College of Engineering. Professor William H. Sanders is appointed to serve as interim department head of ECE ILLINOIS, a title that becomes permanent in 2014.

2013
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Liu's MoboSens group disrupts clean-water testing

Assistant Professor Gang Logan Liu and his research team develop MoboSens, a low-cost, smartphone-based sensor that allows users to test water quality. The nanotechnology-enabled platform encourages everyone to become “citizen scientists,” using the smartphone-compatible sensor to collect, post, and share data regarding stream water quality and drinking water safety on social media platforms, adding to the collective knowledge of an area’s water quality.

2013
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Bashir invents non-electronic biological machines

Professor Rashid Bashir and his research group demonstrate walking bio-bots, or non-electronic machines that harness the power of cells. The bots are made with only hydrogel, heart cells, and a 3-D printer. Bashir goes on to become the head of the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois in 2013.

2012
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ECE ILLINOIS honors Holonyak with LED 50th Anniversary Symposium

ECE ILLINOIS hosts a two-day LED 50th Anniversary Symposium to commemorate the demonstration of the first visible light-emitting diode (LED) in 1962 by its inventor, ECE alumnus and Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54).

The symposium includes more than 45 talks covering the history of the LED, as well as the future outlook for the device.

2012
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Illinois creates Parallel Computing Institute

The University of Illinois’s Coordinated Science Laboratory launches a new interdisciplinary institute that will provide the resources to enable breakthroughs in parallel computing. The new Parallel Computing Institute supports major computational challenges in science, engineering, health, and business, as well as other areas.

2012
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Adesida named provost

ECE Professor and College of Engineering Dean Ilesanmi Adesida is named vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost of the Urbana campus. Adesida assumes the post held by Richard Wheeler on an interim basis since January 2010.

2012
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Alumnus Day becomes IEEE's president-elect

ECE ILLINOIS alumnus Gordon Day (BSEE '66, MSEE '67, PhD '70) is named the 2011 president-elect of the IEEE, the largest professional technical society in the world. He went on to serve as IEEE president in 2012. Day previously served as president of the IEEE-USA national chapter, and president of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society.

2011
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Nicol leads Information Trust Institute

Professor David M. Nicol is named director of the Information Trust Institute after participating in the institute's research since its founding in 2004.

2011
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ECE breaks ground on new building

ECE ILLINOIS, with state and university officials, breaks ground on new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building on the north end of campus. The building is located on the same Quad as the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Coordinated Science Laboratory, and the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab, where many ECE faculty members and graduate students have offices and labs.

2011
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Illinois Board of Trustees approves ECE Building design

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees approves the design of the new ECE building, paving the way for its goal of being the first net-zero energy building of its kind.

2010
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Sanders becomes director of Coordinated Science Lab

Professor William H. Sanders becomes director of the Coordinated Science Laboratory (CSL), an interdisciplinary research facility that focuses on advancements in information technology, computing, control and communications.

Sanders, an expert in secure and dependable computing and security and dependability metrics and evaluation, has been acting director since 2008.

2010
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Holonyak, Feng's research leads to rewriting Kirchhoff's current law

Research using the transistor laser has led Professors Nick Holonyak Jr. and Milton Feng to rewrite Kirchhoff’s current law. The unique properties of the transistor laser required Holonyak, Feng and graduate student Han Wui  reexamine and modify the law to account for photon particles as well as electrons, effectively expanding it from a current law to a current-energy law.

2010
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U.S. Department of Energy grant establishes Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid

A  $18.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant allows Illinois to create an ambitious new research program called the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid. Professor William H. Sanders serves as its director, and the program's goal is to support the ongoing development of a resilient, secure Smart Grid in the United States.

2009
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Eden develops plasma transistor

Professor Gary Eden integrates a solid-state electron emitter and a microcavity plasma device to create a plasma transistor that can be used to make lighter, less expensive, and higher resolution flat-panel displays.

2009
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Illinois approves funding for ECE Building

Gov. Pat Quinn signs into law a collection of bills dubbed the “Illinois Jobs Now!” plan, which include funding to support the construction of a new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building. The state went on to pay for half of the $95 million project, with private donors and corporations supporting the other half.

2009
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Updated MNTL Lab dedicated

The updated Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory is dedicated. The $18 million project added lab, research, classroom, and meeting space.

2008
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ADSC established in Singapore

The University establishes the Advanced Digital Sciences Center (ADSC) in Singapore. Ben Wah is selected as its first director.

2008
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Holonyak inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Nick Holonyak Jr. is chosen for his invention of the first practical light emitting diode and his work on transistor and laser electronics in his career of more than 55 years.

Read more January 2008
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SmithGroup signed to design new ECE Building

The University of Illinois signs an agreement with SmithGroupJJR to design the new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building. The new building will be built adjacent to the Beckman Institute at the north end of campus.

January 2008
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Eden develops microcavity plasma lamps

Professor Gary Eden and his colleague, Sung-Jin Park, develop panels of microcavity plasma lamps that may prove to be useful for residential and commercial lighting and some biomedical applications, and that may surpass the efficiency of florescent lighting.

2007
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Illinois Wireless Wind Tunnel unveiled

The Illinois Wireless Wind Tunnel, located in the Electromagnetics Laboratory on the fourth floor of Everitt Lab, is unveiled. The tunnel will facilitate repeatable, scientific measurement of wireless communication systems.

2007
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NSF announces Blue Waters

The National Science Foundation names Illinois as the location for the new petascale supercomputing system, known as Blue Waters. Blue Waters is scheduled for completion in 2011.

2007
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Trusted ILLIAC launched

The University launches the Trusted ILLIAC cluster. Trusted ILLIAC, designed and built by researchers at the Coordinated Science Laboratory and the Information Trust Institute, is set to include a 500-processor programmable hardware/software cluster. The goal of the project is to make high performance, large-scale computing trustworthy and secure.

2006
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Boppart works to cure cancer

Professor Stephen Boppart works to develop optical coherence tomography to detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer. The technique would help to guide needle biopsies and identify tumor margins during surgery.

2006
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CubeSat lost during launch

The University’s contribution to the CubeSat program, the Illinois Observing Nanosatellite (ION) is one of the 18 satellites affected when a Russian Dnepr rocket carrying the satellites into space fails on its launch attempt. The CubeSat program was created to facilitate launching opportunities for universities and as a learning opportunity for undergraduates.

2006
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Holonyak and Feng advance research in lasers

ECE Professors Nick Holonyak Jr. and Milton Feng demonstrate the room-temperature operation of a heterojunction bipolar transistor laser, moving the device an important step closer to practical applications.

2005
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MNTL begins renovation

The Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory begins a major renovation that will add nearly 50,000 square feet of space to the building and add room for offices for 25 faculty and about 200 students.

2005
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ITI established

The Information Trust Institute (ITI) is established, and Professor William H. Sanders is appointed its first director. ITI will bring together areas of Illinois engineering such as information protection, validation technologies, and security policy analysis, and it will also incorporate expertise from across campus in areas such as finance, economics, geography, and agriculture.

2004
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Overbye organizes SuperGrid workshop

The idea of a SuperGrid, or a high-capacity superconducting energy pipeline moves closer to reality after experts from industry, academia, and government attend a workshop on campus. Organized by Thomas Overbye, the workshop’s goal was to create a plan for what needs to be done to move the SuperGrid forward.

2004
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Holonyak and Feng develop LET

ECE Professors Nick Holonyak Jr. and Milton Feng develop a light-emitting transistor that could revolutionize the electronics industry. This transistor could make ultra-fast optoelectronics possible.

2004
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Holonyak receives Global Energy Prize

Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. receives the first Global Energy prize from Russian President Vladimir Putin for research in the area of energy and power engineering. In addition, he (along with two of his former students) receives the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony in recognition of their work in the development of light-emitting diode technology.

2003
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Engineering at Illinois hosts "Cyber Security: A Dialogue on Policy and Technology"

The College of Engineering hosts “Cyber Security: A Dialogue on Policy and Technology” at the Tech Museum in San Jose, California. The forum  opens discussion between government, industry, and academia on the topic.

2003
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Department of Bioengineering approved

The new Department of Bioengineering is approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Bruce Wheeler serves as interim department head, and the department begins accepting students in fall 2004.

2003
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Lauterbur wins Nobel Prize

Paul C. Lauterbur, an affiliate member of ECE ILLINOIS, is awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham in England for their discoveries in magnetic resonance imaging.

2003
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Tucker's work affects ALMA radio telescope

John Tucker has a major impact on the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope. ALMA will be the largest and most powerful telescope of its kind and could not exist without Tucker’s theoretical work that incorporated quantum effects into the existing microwave theory in 1978.

2002
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Plasma display inventors win Emmy

Three ECE alumni receive Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Donald Bitzer (BSEE ’55, MSEE ’56, PhD ’60), Gene Slottow (PhD ’64), and Robert Willson (PhD ’66) received the award for inventing the flat-panel plasma display, the forerunner of high-definition flat-panel television monitors.

2002
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Blahut becomes department head

Richard Blahut becomes the head of ECE, succeeding Sung-Mo “Steve” Kang.

2001
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Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology established

The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology is established to integrate research about atoms and materials with research about devices and systems.

2001
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HP donates IC testing equipment

Hewlett-Packard Corporation donates a $500,000 integrated circuit (IC) tester, allowing students to have access to state-of-the-art facilities for design, fabrication, and testing of very large integration circuits. The company also donates a plasma etching reactor, valued at more than $2 million, for physical electronics research.

2000
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Kilby wins Nobel Prize

ECE alumnus Jack Kilby (BSEE ’47) receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the invention of the integrated circuit.

2000
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IMPACT plays role in developing EPIC compiler

The Illinois IMPACT (Illinois Microarchitecture Project using Advanced Compiler Technology) research group, led by Professor Wen-mei Hwu, plays a key role in developing the Trimaran Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC) compiler, released to the academic community in August 1998. Trimaran supports state-of-the-art research in compiling for instruction-level parallel architectures.

1998
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Intel supports Fab Lab

Thanks to a gift from Intel, the Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory reopens with state-of-the-art equipment for teaching undergraduates in ECE 444.

1998
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Faculty members research comets

Five ECE researchers are among the 19 scientists observing the biggest meteor storm of the century 25,000 feet above Okinawa, Japan. Flying in the National Science Foundation's Electra research aircraft, Professors Chet Gardner, George Papen, and Gary Swenson — along with post-doc Xinzhao Chu and graduate student Weilin Pan— conduct two experiments to learn more about what comets are made of and how they interact with the Earth's atmosphere.

Read more 1998
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Motorola, Engineering at Illinois establish Motorola Center for Communications

On October 3, Motorola and the College of Engineering announce the establishment of a new research center that will investigate technologies relevant to the telecommunications industry. The Motorola Center for Communications will fund projects at Illinois in areas such as electromagnetics, antenna systems, Internet information traffic, communication theory, and spread-spectrum systems.

1997
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DARPA grant supports cooling material research

In October, Illinois researchers, including Professor David Beebe, receive a $4 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop an innovative and unobtrusive way of keeping military personnel cool in hot environments. The three-year grant enables researchers to develop a cooling material that will be made from a distributed system of light-weight, ultra-efficient mesoscopic coolers.

1997
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Center for Computational Electromagnetics sets world record

Weng Cho Chew, Jiming Song, and Caicheng Lu of the Center for Computational Electromagnetics set a world record by calculating the radar cross section of an aircraft — a measure of how visible the aircraft is to radar — at a microwave frequency of 2 GHz.

1997
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DARPA funds HBT research

DARPA awards Professors Milton Feng and Greg Stillman $1 million to continue developing a new materials and processing technology for high-speed heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) devices. Their technology will ultimately be implemented in analog-to-digital converters for DARPA's digital radar receiver program, and it could someday lead to better performing and more reliable cellular phones and automobile collision avoidance systems.

1997
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Cyberfest celebrates HAL

Cyberfest '97 hails the arrival of HAL, the intelligent, smooth-talking computer who in the 1968 novel and film "2001: A Space Odyssey" was said to originate in Urbana in 1997.

1997
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Lyding, Hess discover silicon microchip process

Professors Joseph Lyding and Karl Hess announce their discovery of a new processing technique that dramatically strengthens and prolongs the life of silicon microchips.

1996
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Faculty members found PowerWorld

Professors George Gross, Tom Overbye, and Pete Sauer and alumnus Mark Laufenberg (BSEE '92, MSEE '93, PhD '97) found PowerWorld, Inc., which produces the PowerWorld Simulator software program. This Windows-based program simulates the operation of a multiregion power system over a specified period of time, usually from several hours to several days.

1996
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Kang becomes department head

Sung-Mo (Steve) Kang becomes department head.

1995
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Center for Computational Electromagnetics established

The Department of Defense awards Illinois $6.25 million to establish the Center for Computational Electromagnetics, directed by Professor Weng Cho Chew, to develop a new knowledge base to help scientists solve electromagnetic problems of unprecedented size and complexity.

1995
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Holonyak wins Japan Prize

Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. receives the prestigious Japan Prize in the field of materials processing technologies.

Read more 1995
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Sloan Center for Asynchronous Learning Environments founded

The University of Illinois receives a $2.1 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to establish a center expected to profoundly affect how students are taught. The Sloan Center for Asynchronous Learning Environments will focus on how faculty can use computers and electronic communication to supplement traditional classroom instruction. Professor Timothy Trick will serve as director of the Sloan Center, and Professor Burks Oakley II will serve as associate director.

1995
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MRI Lab established at Beckman

The Magnetic Resonance Engineering Laboratory is established in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. The new lab is directed by Professor Richard Magin.

1994
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Grainger Engineering Library opens

Grainger Engineering Library Information Center, the largest and most sophisticated engineering library in the world, opens to University of Illinois students and the public.

1994
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Mosaic developed at NCSA

Mosaic, the first graphical browser for the World Wide Web, is developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

1993
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Computer and Systems Research Laboratory completed

Construction is completed on the Computer and Systems Research Laboratory, which houses the Coordinated Science Laboratory and Center for Supercomputing Research and Development.

 

1992
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ECE history book published

ECE ILLINOIS publishes “The Centennial History.”

1991
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Electromagnetics Laboratory upgrades instruments

The Electromagnetics Laboratory begins upgrading its instruments to provide higher frequency capability. New communications services and other electromagnetic systems are making new demands on the frequency spectrum.

 

1991
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Center for Supercomputing Research and Development demonstrate work

Staff in the Center for Supercomputing Research and Development demonstrate the Xylem operating system, Cedar Fortran compiler, and Cedar numerical library operating on a 32-processor, four-cluster system.

 

1990
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Microelectronics Laboratory completed

Construction is completed on the Microelectronics Laboratory, with 8,000 square feet of class 100 and class 1,000 clean-room space equipped with facilities for nanolithography, growth of artificially structured materials (MBE and MOCVD), materials characterization, and high-speed electrical and optical device measurements.

1989
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Beckman Institute opens

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology is opened, devoted to basic research in biological intelligence, human-computer intelligent interaction, and molecular electronic nanostructures. The Institute has been established with a $40 million gift from Arnold O. Beckman and state matching funds.

1989
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Cedar 1 powers up

Cedar 1, a parallel supercomputer system consisting of four clusters of four processors each, is powered up in the Center for Supercomputing Research and Development.

1989
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Electro-Optic Systems Laboratory creates, photographs artificial laser guide star

Personnel in the Electro-Optic Systems Laboratory are the first to successfully create and photograph an artificial laser guide star at Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii.

 

1987
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Engineering Research Center for Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics established

The Engineering Research Center for Compound Semiconductor Microelectronics is established under the leadership of Professor Gregory Stillman. The NSF-supported center builds on the work begun at Illinois by John Bardeen and advanced by Professor Nick Holonyak Jr.

 

1986
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Trick becomes department head

Timothy N. Trick becomes department head.

1985
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NCSA established

NSF establishes the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois.

1985
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Mittra establishes Electromagnetic Communication Laboratory

Professor Raj Mittra establishes the Electromagnetic Communication Laboratory. Research in the laboratory focuses on scattering from arrays of resistive strips and other conducting shapes, coupling in multiconductor lines as applied to high-speed data transmission, scattering from discontinuities in strip transmission lines, and improvement of the performance of reflector antennas, particularly the huge ones based in space.

1984
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The Department of Electrical Engineering becomes the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

1984
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Center for Supercomputing Research and Development founded

The Center for Supercomputing Research and Development (CSRD) is founded to advance the state of supercomputing and to demonstrate the practicality of high-performance parallel computation across a wide range of applications.

1984
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Van Valkenburg becomes dean

Professor Mac Van Valkenburg becomes dean of the College of Engineering, overseeing a period of spectacular growth in the College.

1984
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Mac Van Valkenburg named first Grainger Professor of Electrical Engineering

Mac Van Valkenburg is named the first Grainger Professor of Electrical Engineering. Established by the Grainger Foundation, this is the first endowed chair in the College of Engineering.

 

1982
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Mayes develops ANSERLIN antenna

Professor Paul Mayes and his students investigate ways to enhance the bandwidth of low-profile antennas, and as a result develop the annular sector, radiating line (ANSERLIN) antenna. ANSERLIN is a simple, nonresonant, circularly polarized element; its bandwidth is limited by pattern, rather than impedance, variation. Visit the Illinois Historic Archive of Antennas on the Web.

1980s
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Swenson becomes department head

George W. Swenson Jr. becomes department head after Edward C. Jordan retires.

1979
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Power Affiliates Program established

The Power Affiliates Program is established to promote relations between the Power Laboratory and industrial partners.

1979
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Laser radar system measures atomic sodium vapor

A team of personnel from the Aeronomy Laboratory, Quantum Electronics Laboratory, and Electro-Optic Systems Laboratory combine to design and develop a laser radar system to measure the density-versus-altitude distribution of atomic sodium vapor between 80 and 100 km altitude.

Mid-1970s
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Electro-Optic Systems Laboratory formed

The Electro-Optic Systems Laboratory is formed under the direction of Professor Chester S. Gardner. Early on, one of the world's first sodium lidar systems is developed in the lab for study of upper atmosphere chemistry and dynamics. Over the years, several powerful and sophisticated lidar systems will be developed in the lab and deployed around the world, including sites in Norway, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Australia.

Mid-1970s
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Antenna Laboratory becomes Electromagnetics Laboratory.

To reflect its broadening scope of activities, the Antenna Laboratory is changed to the Electromagnetics Laboratory.

1973
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CompE curriculum established

The computer engineering curriculum is established within the department.

1973
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Bardeen wins second Nobel Prize

Electrical engineering and physics Professor John Bardeen receives his second Nobel Prize in physics, this time for co-developing the theory of superconductivity with J. Robert Schrieffer and Leon Cooper. Bardeen had won his first Nobel in 1956 for co-inventing the transistor.

1972
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Mayes develops monopole-slot element

Professor Paul Mayes and his students develop the monopole-slot element, apply it to frequency-scanning and frequency-independent arrays and, as a single element, for mobile reception in cellular radio systems. Visit the Illinois Historic Archive of Antennas on the Web.

1970s
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Radio telescope at the Vermilion River Observatory completed

Construction is completed on the 120-foot radio telescope at the Vermilion River Observatory in eastern Illinois. The telescope project, directed by Professor George Swenson Jr., is the result of a cooperative program by the astronomy and electrical engineering departments of the University of Illinois.

1970
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Lo studies aberration-corrected artificial dielectric lenses

Professor Y. T. Lo and his student William F. Richards conduct a study of aberration-corrected artificial dielectric lenses. Several companies have fabricated such lenses, but none has performed properly. The theoretical study finally provides the explanation that artificial dielectrics made of periodic scatterers inherently have the adverse properties of anisotropy, birefringence, and dispersion. Lo develops a series of optical demonstrations (he calls them "Polart") to show his students the strange behavior of electromagnetic waves in such media.

1970s
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Lo develops cavity-model theory

Y. T. Lo and co-workers develop a widely used "cavity-model" theory for microstrip patch antennas. Lo serves two terms as IEEE distinguished lecturer on this subject.

1970s
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Cho develops molecular beam epitaxy

Alumnus Alfred Cho (BSEE '60, MSEE '61, PhD '68) and John Arthur develop molecular beam epitaxy while working at Bell Labs.

Late 1960s
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Electrical engineering/computer science curriculum unveiled

An electrical engineering/computer science curriculum is established within the department. It will be replaced in 1973 by the computer engineering curriculum.

1969
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Electrical engineering alumni association established at Illinois

The electrical engineering alumni association, called E2A2, is founded as the 20th constituent organization of the University of Illinois Alumni Association. The association is now known as the ECE Alumni Association.

1967
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EE creates first departmental industrial affiliates program

The first departmental industrial affiliates program is launched in the physical electronics area. The program results in close ties and working relationships between faculty and their industrial counterparts. Other affiliate programs in the department will be modeled after this one.

1966
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Ionosphere Radio Laboratory opens

The Ionosphere Radio Laboratory (later to be renamed Wave Propagation Laboratory) is established, one of the first labs in the world to set up a number of stations to monitor satellite radio transmissions. The stations are first set up on campus and in surrounding towns. At different times, stations have been maintained outside of Illinois from Canada to Brazil.

1966
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Von Foerster studies music and computers

Heinz Von Foerster organizes a highly creative session on computers in music. The papers presented in this pioneering session are later published in the book Music by Computers, edited by Von Foerster and James Beauchamp.

1966
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Electrical Engineering Building remodeled

A third floor is added to the Electrical Engineering Building (later to be renamed Everitt Laboratory).

1965
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Sah receives grant for semiconductor-related equipment for undergrads

Chih-Teng Sah receives an NSF grant to purchase equipment for an undergraduate laboratory to accompany lectures specifically on semiconductor materials and solid-state devices. The lab will evolve into today's Integrated Circuit Fabrication Laboratory for ECE 444.

1965
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Lo formulates horn antenna theory

Professor Y. T. Lo and his student M. Al-Hakkak, are among the first to formulate a complete and rigorous theory for horn antennas that use a special type of waveguide to produce perfect circularly polarized waves. These antennas will be widely used as feeds for large reflector antennas in space communications. Visit the Illinois Historic Archive of Antennas on the Web.

1960s
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Wittig discovers CO system

Curt Wittig of the Electrophysics Laboratory discovers the world's second chemical laser, the CO system.

1960s
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CS @ Illinois founded

The Digital Computer Laboratory is reorganized as the Department of Computer Science.

1964
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Plasma display invented

Professors Donald L. Bitzer (BSEE '55, MSEE '56, PhD '60) and H. Gene Slottow (PhD '64), along with student Robert Willson (PhD '66), invent the plasma display panel. 

1964
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Holonyak joins EE faculty

Alumnus Nick Holonyak Jr. (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54) returns to Illinois as a faculty member after working in industry at Bell Labs and General Electric. Holonyak brings III-V materials synthesis and epitaxial crystal growth to the department, along with heterostructure and optoelectronics research.

1963
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Coleman begins research on gaseous molecular lasers

Paul Coleman launches a program in the Electrophysics Laboratory on gaseous molecular lasers. The program will last until 1980 and will make several contributions to various lasers.

1963
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Mac Van Valkenburg organizes Allerton Conference

Mac Van Valkenburg organizes the first Allerton Conference on Circuits and Systems, known today as the Allerton Conference on Communication, Control, and Computing.

1963
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Holonyak invents first visible LED

Nick Holonyak Jr. (BSEE ’50, MSEE ’51, PhD ’54) invents the first visible light-emitting diode at General Electric. Holonyak goes on to become one of ECE ILLINOIS’ most prestigious faculty members.

1962
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Aeronomy Laboratory established

The Aeronomy Laboratory is established by Sid Bowhill and collaborates with the Coordinated Science Laboratory in designing and developing a scientific rocket program sponsored by NASA.

Early 1960s
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Computer-Based Education Research Laboratory opens

The Computer-Based Education Research Laboratory is established. Here, Chalmers Sherwin and Donald Bitzer will develop PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations), the world's first time-shared computer-based education system. A tradition of innovation in computer-aided instruction at Illinois started with PLATO, which has since evolved into NovaNET.

1960
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Swenson's beacon transmitters launched

Nora Alice I and II, beacon transmitters developed under the direction of George Swenson, are launched with NASA's Discoverer satellites, which are among the earliest satellites to be launched by the U.S. in its response to the Soviet Sputnik launches. The transmitters, built quickly on a shoestring budget using hardware-store materials, will provide valuable data for atmospheric studies.

Read more Early 1960s
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Enderby demonstrates coherent Cherenhov radiation

Charles Enderby, a student in the Electrophysics Laboratory, demonstrates coherent Cherenhov radiation in his PhD thesis, setting a power high-frequency record that will stand for 20 years.

Late 1950s
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Tykociner studies zetetics

Electrical engineering professor Joseph Tykociner, who in 1922 had developed the technology for recording sound on film, publishes his first book on "zetetics," which he defines as "the science of research."

1959
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CSL created

The Control Systems Laboratory is reorganized into the Coordinated Science Laboratory, an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental graduate research center. In the coming years, CSL will establish an international reputation for fundamental contributions to control theory, fault-tolerant computing, computational theory, and communications. Research in CSL will lead to the electric vacuum gyroscope, plasma display panel, combat surveillance radar, improved synthetic aperture radar, and acoustic charge transport for storing information in analog form.

1959
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Lo introduces method of moments technique

Professor Yuen T. Lo introduces the "method of moments" mathematical technique for electromagnetic analysis in a course taught in the department. A few years later, the method will become an immediate success when Lo publishes a paper about it in Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

1958-59
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Kilby invents integrated circuit

ECE alumnus Jack Kilby (BSEE '47) invents the integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments in Dallas.

1958
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Von Foerster establishes BCL

Heinz Von Foerster establishes the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) for the study of biological systems to help find a way to build more powerful computer systems. Concepts that will enjoy popularity in the 1990s — connectionism and parallelism in computer architecture or iteration and recursion in mathematics — are now central objects of study at BCL. Most likely, the first parallel computers are built and exhibited here. BCL is one of the first educational institutions teaching cybernetics.

1958
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Researchers track Sputnik I

Using a receiver on the roof of the Electrical Engineering Building, Illinois researchers begin tracking signals from the Soviet satellite Sputnik I.

Read more 1957
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Bardeen wins first Nobel Prize

John Bardeen receives his first Nobel Prize in physics for co-inventing the transistor in 1947 with colleagues W. H. Brattain and W. Shockley at Bell Laboratories. He will win another in 1972 for co-developing the theory of superconductivity with J. Robert Schrieffer and Leon Cooper.

1956
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Swenson joins faculty

George W. Swenson Jr. joins the electrical engineering and astronomy faculties and begins designing a 400-foot-wide radio telescope to be located near Danville, Ill., which will support a decade of productive research.

Read more 1956
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Researchers construct Wullenweber array

The large-aperture radio direction finding system, or Wullenweber array, is constructed at the Bondville Road Field Station. Operating at a frequency from 4 to 16 MHz, the array uses 120 antennas and is 1000 feet in diameter.

Read more 1955
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Van Valkenburg publishes Network Analysis

The first edition of Network Analysis, by Mac Van Valkenburg, is published in the same year that Van Valkenburg joins the electrical engineering faculty at Illinois. The popular textbook will revolutionize the teaching of circuit theory, going through several editions and being translated into many languages. Van Valkenburg will later serve as acting head of the department and dean of the College of Engineering, building a reputation as one of the great engineering educators of the century.

1955
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Four-bit prototype transistorized computer constructed

A four-bit prototype transistorized computer is constructed in the Digital Computer Laboratory.

1955
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Quantum Hall effect discovered

Original studies undertaken at Illinois by John Bardeen, John R. Schrieffer, and a chain of European postdoctoral students will lead to the discovery in Europe of the quantum Hall effect.

1950s
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Jordan becomes department head

Edward C. Jordan becomes head of the department, serving until 1979. In a quarter century as head, Jordan will attract the most talented engineers and educators in the world to Illinois.

1954
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Rumsey heads Antenna Laboratory

Jordan selects Vic Rumsey to direct the Antenna Laboratory, where researchers will develop the log-periodic antenna. Paul Mayes and Robert Carrel will develop the log-periodic resonant-V array, which will become a popular antenna for television reception.

Read more 1954
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Holonyak earns doctorate

Nick Holonyak Jr. receives his PhD from Illinois (he had received his BSEE here in 1951 and MSEE in 1952) after two years studying in the laboratory of John Bardeen. Holonyak will go on to work at Bell Labs where, with John Moll, he will make the first diffused silicon transistors and switches, metalized silicon, and generally develop the technology behind the rise of Silicon Valley and today's chips. Then, after serving in the Army, Holonyak will develop the red light-emitting diode while at General Electric. He will return to Illinois as a faculty member in 1963.

1954
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ILLIAC becomes operational

ILLIAC, the first computer built and owned entirely by an educational institution, becomes operational. It is used by Lajaren Hiller, director of the Experimental Music Studios, to compose and play the Illiac Suite, the first computer-composed composition.

1952
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Bardeen joins faculty

John Bardeen leaves Bell Labs to join the faculties of electrical engineering and physics at Illinois. Bardeen undertakes a range of investigations involving the contact, junction, transistor, surface, impurity diffusion, and bulk behavior of germanium.

1951
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Coleman joins faculty

Paul D. Coleman joins the faculty and, with student Murray D. Sirkis, begins setting up the Electrophysics Laboratory. The initial research program for the new lab is to study the interaction of relativistic electron beams with various coupling structures.

1951
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Control Systems Laboratory established

The Coordinated Science Laboratory (originally called the Control Systems Laboratory) is established to conduct military research in coherent and noncoherent Doppler radar, radar-based and computer-controlled air traffic surveillance and control, and other areas.

1951
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Digital Computer Laboratory created

The Digital Computer Laboratory is established and staffed primarily by faculty in electrical engineering and physics. The U. S. Army and University of Illinois jointly fund the construction of two computers, ORDVAC and ILLIAC.

1950
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Goldstein establishes Gaseous Electronics Laboratory

Professor Ladislaw Goldstein, trained in the laboratory of Marie Curie at the University of Paris, comes to Illinois and establishes the Gaseous Electronics Laboratory, now known as the Laboratory for Optical Physics and Engineering. Initially, the focus of the laboratory is on the fundamental processes in partially ionized gases, with special attention to those operative in the ionosphere. Later, attention will turn to controlled fusion, quantum aspects of gaseous electronics, and gas lasers.

1950
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Fry creates BRL

William Fry joins the department and establishes the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory, where the propagation properties of ultrasound are studied and measuring methods and instruments are developed for diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical purposes.

Late 1940s
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Everitt becomes dean

William L. Everitt concludes his term as department head and becomes dean of the College of Engineering, which he will lead to international prominence. John D. Ryder becomes head of the department.

Read more 1949
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EE opens new building

The Department of Electrical Engineering moves to the newly constructed Electrical Engineering Building (later renamed Everitt Laboratory). Read more about the land where Everitt Lab sits. 

1949
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Von Foerster joins faculty

Heinz Von Foerster joins the department and is named director of the Tube Laboratory. Later, his research interests will shift to cybernetics and he will found the Biological Computer Laboratory.

1949
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Bardeen co-invents transistor

John Bardeen co-invents the transistor at Bell Laboratories with W. H. Brattain and W. Shockley. Bardeen will later join the electrical engineering and physics faculties at Illinois, where he will co-develop the theory of superconductivity.

1947
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Everitt succeeds Paine

Ellery B. Paine retires after 31 years as head of electrical engineering and is replaced by William L. Everitt. Under Everitt's direction, the department will be transformed to include all aspects of research and instruction encompassed in the broad spectrum of subjects related to electrical engineering. 

Everitt is well known for his many contributions to the field. Everitt came to the University of Illinois with influence, power, and respect. Because of those qualities and the fact he’d worked in Washington, D.C., in close contact with other well-respected engineers, he was able to recruit other top researchers to come to Illinois and join the electrical engineering department.

1944
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Armed Services contracts with Illinois to train recruits in EE

The United States Armed Services contracts with the university to train recruits on an accelerated basis. Most of this training focuses on subjects related to electrical engineering.

1941
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EE creates facilities for studying illumination

The Electrical Engineering Annex is remodeled to provide space for illumination courses. A large photometric laboratory is constructed in the basement, and a classroom seating 40 students, a spectrophotometry laboratory, and a staff office are provided on the main floor. These facilities for instruction in the field of illumination are considered the finest in the nation.

1934
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High voltage laboratory opens

The south end of the old Boiler House (renamed Electrical Engineering Annex) is transformed into a high voltage laboratory containing a huge Tesla coil and associated apparatus. This laboratory is under the direction of Professor Joseph Tykociner.

1932
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Everitt publishes textbook

The first edition of Communication Engineering, by William L. Everitt, is published. The popular textbook, based largely on Everitt's own research while he is at Ohio State University, attracts graduate students from all around the world.

1932
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Joseph Tykociner establishes Tube Laboratory

Joseph Tykociner establishes the Tube Laboratory and eventually obtains a government contract for research on microwave tubes.

1930s
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EE creates Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory

A connecting structure is built across the Boneyard to join the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building and Applied Mechanics Laboratory. The latter building has been vacated by the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, which moves to the newly constructed Talbot Laboratory. Electrical engineering now occupies both the older buildings which, along with the connecting structure, form the Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory.

1929
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Tykociner demonstrates sound on film

Professor Joseph Tykociner makes the first public demonstration of sound on film at a meeting of the Urbana chapter of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Read more 1922
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Tykociner joins research faculty

Joseph Tykociner becomes one of the first research professors in electrical engineering at Illinois.

1918
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Paine becomes department head

Ellery Burton Paine begins his 31-year tenure as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering.

1913
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EE moves into Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building

The east wing of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building is remodeled to contain two large lecture rooms, two classrooms, and a high-voltage laboratory. Department of Electrical Engineering offices, graduate study room, and library move in to the third floor of the building.

1910
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Berg joins as department head

Ernest Julius Berg, an engineer with General Electric Company and a lecturer at Union College, Schenectady, New York, is employed as head of electrical engineering. He's enticed to come to Illinois when several large Illinois corporations agreed to supplement his university salary by giving him retainer fees as a consulting engineer. Berg remains as head until June 1913, when he resigns and returns to his former positions with General Electric Company and with Union College.

1909
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Eta Kappa Nu, the electrical engineering honor society, is founded at Illinois.

1904
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Brooks becomes department head

Morgan Brooks, from the University of Nebraska, is hired by the University of Illinois as professor of electrical engineering and head of the department. He serves as department head until 1909 and remains as professor of electrical engineering until his retirement in 1929.

1901
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Aldrich leads EE department

William Sleeper Aldrich, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of West Virginia, is employed as professor of electrical engineering and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering, succeeding William Esty.

1899
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Esty becomes head of independent EE department

After a brief separation and reunification in 1895-96, physics and electrical engineering are permanently separated because of the increase in degrees granted in electrical engineering. William Esty becomes head of electrical engineering.

1898
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Illinois builds Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building

The university allocates $40,000 for construction of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Building on the east side of Burrill Avenue just north of the Boneyard. The Electrical Dynamo Laboratory will occupy the entire main floor of the new building, which will be shared by the mechanical and electrical engineering departments.

1897
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In November 1895, the administration of physics and electrical engineering are separated temporarily. Bernard V. Swenson becomes the first head of electrical engineering. Ten months later, with the arrival of Albert Pruden Carmon in September 1896 from Stanford University as head of physics, the electrical engineering courses are again placed under the administration of the Department of Physics.

1895
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Department moves into Engineering Hall

The Department of Physics and its electrical classrooms move from the Main Building (University Hall) to the newly constructed Engineering Hall.

1894
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ECE ILLINOIS established

The first electrical laboratory is constructed under the direction of Samuel Wesley Stratton, head of physics. The first courses in electrical engineering are offered here; therefore, 1891 is recognized as the date for establishment of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (originally called the Department of Electrical Engineering).

According to the Illinois Technograph, laboratory work during this period "includes simple problems in electrical measurements, which are designed to acquaint the student with therms and the use of electrical apparatus. Later on, students in advanced classes take up testing of primary and secondary batteries, cable testing designing of electrical machinery, installation of light and power plants, the transmission of power by electricity and, lastly, photometry."

Initially, the prime mover of the laboratory is a 10-hp "grasshopper" Atkinson gas engine; however, with the advent of incandescent lighting, a 60-hp "Ideal" high-speed steam engine is later installed to provide the first unit of the original University Hall power plant.

1891
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Department of Physics founded

The Department of Physics is established.

Samuel Wesley Stratton, who later becomes president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is placed in charge. Stratton recognizes the potential of electricity and related phenomena and supported that newly developing field of technology. Under his direction, the first electrical laboratory is constructed in 1891, and the first courses in electrical engineering are offered. In 1892, Stratton resigns to accept a position in the Department of Physics at the newly established University of Chicago.

1889
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Illinois Industrial University is renamed the University of Illinois.

1885
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University offers electrical training

The 1878-79 university catalog boasts that the equipment in the Physical Laboratory includes "a collection of apparatus from the most celebrated European and American makers, costing over $5,000 and illustrating the subjects of mechanics, pneumatics, optics, heat and electricity."

1878
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Physical Laboratory established

The first Physical Laboratory is established in the newly completed Main Building, later to be named University Hall.

1873
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Illinois Industrial University founded

Illinois Industrial University is established by an act of the Illinois legislature. The Polytechnic Department offers training in the physical laws of light, sound, electricity, and magnetism.

1867