It’s a cloudy night on the Isle of Wight. The year is 1940, and a soldier sitting in an underground command center is peering intently at the glow of a cathode-ray tube. Suddenly, echo pulses appear on the screen, as they have almost every night for the past two months. Leaping for the radiophone, the soldier alerts his commanding officer. In minutes, Spitfire and Hurricane fighters are dispatched to intercept the incoming bombers over the English Channel.
That drama played itself out countless times during World War II. But regardless of who was attacking whom, the star was always radar. And radar, along with the proximity fuze and digital electronic computing, was part of a series of important inventions that transformed electrical engineering, EE education, and, particularly EE textbooks, in the middle of the 20th century. The transformation began before the war had even ended, when EE educators, particularly in the United States, began confronting the fact that it had been physicists, more than engineers, who had achieved many of the key breakthroughs in electronics.
The academics concluded that the EE curriculum had become too focused on practice and technique. What’s more, it had paid too little attention to the mathematical and physical fundamentals underlying electrical technologies, in particular, Maxwell’s equations. This realization prompted renewed emphasis on theory.
One of the first EE textbooks to adopt a strongly theoretical approach did such a good job that it remains in print to this day. This intermediate-level textbook, Fields and Waves in Modern Radio (1944) by General Electric Co. engineers Simon Ramo and John R. Whinnery, was written not for university students but for engineers in GE’s advanced training program. It covers electromagnetic theory so thoroughly that the reader becomes adept at applying Maxwell’s equations to a wide range of problems.
The book became the best-selling textbook ever for John Wiley & Sons. Recent editions have added Theodore Van Duzer as a third author, and the title was changed to Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics. Whinnery became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Ramo became a missile magnate, founding with Dean E. Wooldridge in 1953 a company that was the driving force behind the early U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles program. In 1958 Ramo-Wooldridge merged with Thompson Products and eventually became TRW Inc. (now part of Northrop Grumman Corp.).
The intent of Ernst A. Guillemin’s 1949 textbook is clear from its title: The Mathematics of Circuit Analysis: Extensions to the Mathematical Training of Electrical Engineers [see figure]. Although topics include matrices, quadratic forms, vector analysis, complex variables, and Fourier series, Guillemin took an engineer’s approach, emphasizing plausibility and general understanding of the techniques rather than mathematical rigor. He was an important contributor to linear network analysis and synthesis, and his Communication Networks (1931, 1935) is also a classic.
Japanese professors have so cherished Naohei Yamada’s Denki-jikigaku (Electromagnetic theory) that the book, first published in 1950, came out in its latest edition just months ago. The book is famous for its careful explanations of the basic equations of electromagnetic theory and for its many exercises dealing with actual devices and equipment. Makoto Katsurai, professor of electrical engineering at Tokyo University, who updated the latest edition, agreed to take on the job even though he was the author of a textbook on the very same subject.
In France, Yves Rocard, a professor at the École Normale Supérieure, took up where Yamada in Japan and Ramo and Whinnery in the United States left off. His Électricité, first published in 1951, provided a broad foundation for all types of electrical and electronic engineering (giving much attention to l’électron libre), and sought to enhance students’ understanding of the science behind electrical engineering.
Rocard’s book is often compared to one by Karl Küpfmüller, Einführung in die theoretische Elektrotechnik (Introduction to theoretical electrotechnology). Both books analyzed the design and performance of actual devices, such as dynamos, galvanometers, radio receivers, and television cameras. [For a discussion of the Küpfmüller book, see ”Treasured Texts,” IEEE Spectrum, April 2003, pp. 44-49.] But Électricité went further, including discussions of magnetrons, waveguides, and other developments. For two or three decades, the book was the standard for French EE students, and it was translated into German. Despite having written such a successful book, Rocard is known today mainly as the father of the political leader Michel Rocard, who was prime minister of France from 1988 to 1991.
The art and science of circuit design
The invention of the transistor in 1947 and of the integrated circuit in 1959 kicked the postwar electronics boom into high gear. Both events set the stage for a vigorous expansion in applications. By the 1960s, scientists and engineers of all sorts were using electronics for instrumentation, control, and information processing. As the demand for new applications grew, designing electronic circuits became an important skill for large numbers of people.
One of the most valuable circuit design books had humble beginnings. In 1969 two students at the University of Stuttgart, Ulrich Tietze and Christoph Schenk, took a systematic approach to preparing for the E-Technik Prüfung (Germany’s exam for a master’s degree). They collected material on all aspects of circuit design and wrote detailed summaries. Fellow students clamored for copies of this comprehensive overview, but photocopying machines at that time were few. So a professor, who had connections with German publisher Springer-Verlag, urged its publication.
The result was astounding: enormous sales, 12 editions (so far) in German, many editions in six other languages, and one of the most successful technical books ever for Springer-Verlag. Halbleiter-Schaltungstechnik (the English version is titled Electronic Circuits: Design and Applications), expanded and updated over the years, teaches students not only to analyze circuits mathematically, but also to design circuits for particular applications. Offering many great how-to examples, it covers analog and digital circuits and emphasizes the use of commercially available ICs.