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Pioneer of Microwave and Millimeter-Wave Electronics Dies at 80

IEEE also mourns the loss of the developer of the ground-fault circuit interrupter and others

5 min read

Photo of Tatsuo Itoh
Photo: UCLA Samueli

Tatsuo Itoh

Microwave and millimeter-wave electronics pioneer

Life Fellow, 80; died 4 March

Itoh [above] led breakthroughs in using the microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum for electronics and communication technologies.

Born in Tokyo, he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Yokohama National University in 1964 and 1966, respectively. After graduating, he moved to the United States to continue his education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1969. He held several research positions at the university before accepting a job in 1976 at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

After leaving SRI, he began his career in academia at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, where he was an associate professor. In 1978 he joined the University of Texas at Austin as an associate professor, and in 1981 he was promoted to professor. He led the university’s research lab, where he made several major breakthroughs in microwave and millimeter-wave research. His work has influenced researchers exploring terahertz frequencies.

In 1991 Itoh joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he ran the Microwave Electronics Laboratory. The lab conducts theoretical and experimental research in integrated circuits, metamaterials, and electromagnetics.

Itoh and his research group experimented with metamaterials in miniaturized antennas and other components in communication chip technologies. The versatile antennas they developed offered high transmission efficiency and low power consumption, according to Itoh’s UCLA obituary.

Itoh received the 2018 IEEE Electromagnetics Award for “contributions to electromagnetic modeling, artificial materials, microwave electronics, and antennas.”

He served as the 1990 president of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, which named an annual award in his honor.

Robert E. Alexovich

Aerospace engineer

Life member, 92; died 30 March

Alexovich spent his entire career at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, formerly Lewis Research Center, in Cleveland. He retired in 1985 as the deputy chief of technology in its space communications division.

During his time at NASA he helped develop the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite—the first high-speed, all-digital communications satellite—which launched in 1993.

He authored multiple technical papers on phased-array antennas.

He joined NASA in 1952 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Case Institute of Technology, in Cleveland.

Robert A.Bartkowiak

Developer of the Nimbus weather satellites

Life member, 80, died 15 February

Bartkowiak was a development engineer for RCA’s Astro Electronics Division, in East Windsor, N.J. There he helped develop weather satellites for NASA’s Nimbus program. The satellites, launched between 1964 and 1978, collect data about Earth’s atmosphere.

After leaving RCA, he taught engineering at Pennsylvania State University for more than 40years until he retired in 2008 as professor emeritus.

After retiring, he volunteered at the Da Vinci Science Center, in Allentown, Pa.

He enjoyed attending Penn State football and basketball games with his wife and grandchildren.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Penn State and a master’s degree in EE from Drexel University, in Philadelphia.

William H.Newton Jr.

Licensed engineer

Life member, 81; died 10 February

Newton worked for several companies during his career, including Bell Labs, Gulf Oil, Hercules, and Ling-Temco-Vought.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas.

Saul Rosenbaum

Developer of the ground-fault circuit interrupter

IEEE life member, 91; died 5 February

Rosenbaum was granted more than 40U.S.patents including one for the ground-fault circuit interrupter, which can shut off electric power in the event of a fault in less than 1second.

After he graduated from the East New York Vocational High School—now Transit Tech—in New York City, he enlisted in the U.S.Navy. He was stationed in Texas, where he maintained radar equipment and completed electronics training courses.

After he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he and a friend started a television repair business. Rosenbaum later joined Leviton Manufacturing, in Melville, N.Y., as a bench technician. He rose through the ranks and eventually was promoted to vice president of research.

Lawrence E. Tannas Jr.

Innovator of electronic displays

Life member, 84; died 5 February

Tannas was instrumental in the early growth of electronic displays and the technology’s evolution. He specialized in flat-panel displays, specifically liquid-crystal displays.

During his career he worked for Aerojet, General Electric’s Engineering Research Laboratories, Honeywell, Martin Marietta, and Rockwell International.

At GE he developed automatic landing systems used by spacecraft. At Honeywell he invented a backup guidance display for the Apollo reentry vehicle. At Martin Marietta he developed the cockpit for the SV-5 manned space vehicle—a U.S. Air Force prototype that was an important predecessor to NASA’s space shuttle.

Thanks to Tannas, in the 1970s Rockwell Autonetics introduced the world’s first production line for LCDs. He perfected a manufacturing process for electroluminescent displays while at Aerojet.

He developed a curriculum on advanced engineering for information displays and taught the courses at the UCLA Extension from 1980 to 2000.

He founded Tannas Electronic Displays in 1999 and sold the company in 2015 to TED—now Pixel Scientific of Scotts Valley, Calif.

Tannas, who held 28U.S. patents, remained active in the industry as a consultant.

He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at UCLA in 1959 and 1961.

Michael William Dooley

Developed implantable cardioverter-defibrillator battery

Life member, 79; died 27 January

Dooley, who developed the battery technology used in the first implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, was granted several U.S.patents for pacemaker-related inventions. He received a Mirowski Award from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, for his contributions to medical technology.

Dooley began working in the machine shop at Honeywell in Minneapolis while an engineering student at the University of Minnesota there.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Dooley joined the university’s Variety Club Heart Hospital as an electronic technician. He was promoted to junior engineer and eventually to scientist there. He worked with data-acquisition systems and equipment for electrocardiograph research.

After leaving the hospital, he briefly worked as a consultant, helping hospitals establish programs to monitor pacemakers and stress tests. He also worked as an analog systems engineer for Aero Systems Engineering in Marietta, Ga., designing and directing the construction of low-level relay-based test systems for jet engines.

He left the company to found MWD Research, a startup that designed and manufactured digital and analog systems and printed circuit boards for industrial use. He then joined Medtronic in Minneapolis as a senior design engineer.

After retiring, he worked as a consultant and helped develop the first hearing aid for the middle ear, at St.Croix Medical, now Envoy Medical Systems, in White Bear Lake, Minn.

Edwin Story Oxner

Transistor expert

Life senior member, 92; died 26 December

At the age of 20, Oxner received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and radio engineering in 1948 from Tri-State College—now Trine University—in Angola, Ind. After graduating, he joined Wilbur Wright Field, in Dayton, Ohio, as a digital engineer. After World War II the U.S. Air Force installation downsized, and he was laid off.

He then worked for several companies in the microwave field. In the late 1950s, he took a leave of absence to pursue a master’s degree in biblical studies at the Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago.

After receiving his degree, Oxner joined Varian in Palo Alto, Calif., as the engineering supervisor in charge of microwave mixer design. While working at Varian, he designed zinc die-cast microwave mixer products that translate the frequency of electromagnetic signals. His design significantly reduced the cost of mixers.

He worked for microwave manufacturers ME Labs and Intradyne Systems before joining Siliconix in Santa Clara, Calif., in 1970 as an application engineer.

While at Siliconix, he became an expert in junction field effect transistors (JFETs) and metal-oxide-silicon field-effect transistors.

He gave technical lectures at several IEEE meetings on topics such as how to use power MOSFETs in RF amplifiers.

He moved to Texas in 1993 but continued to work remotely for Siliconix. He left the company in 2010 and worked as a consultant for InterFET of Dallas until his death.

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