Where Are Today’s Engineering Heroes?

By failing to celebrate its finest contributors, the profession risks far more than mere obscurity

8 min read
Where Are Today’s Engineering Heroes?
Illustration: Tavis Coburn

Some 25 years ago, I set out to write a biography of one of the most notable electrical engineers in American history. A professor at MIT, he designed the most powerful analog computers of the 1930s, and he cofounded Raytheon. An advisor to two U.S. presidents, he initiated the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bombs, and he directed the research that led to the mass production of penicillin. In 1945, he conceived of the U.S. National Science Foundation, which continues to support groundbreaking research and has become the model for research funding in many countries. And he wrote a provocative magazine article that later was credited with accurately describing the personal computer and the Internet—decades before either came into being. I would argue that within the engineering pantheon, only Benjamin Franklin had as great an influence in as many spheres.

If by now you've identified my subject as Vannevar Bush, congratulations! If you haven't, don't feel bad. The most frequent question that I, his sole biographer, receive about him is whether he is related to the first and the second presidents Bush. (He is not.)

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Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Remembering 1982 IEEE President Robert Larson

He was a supporter of several IEEE programs including Smart Village

3 min read
A photo of two men in suits.  One behind the other.

Robert Larson [left] with IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz, who served as IEEE general manager and executive director.

IEEE History Center

Robert E. Larson, 1982 IEEE president, died on 10 March at the age of 83.

An active volunteer who held many high-level positions throughout the organization, Larson was the 1975–1976 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and also served as IEEE Foundation president.

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This Gift Will Help Your Aspiring Engineer Learn Technology

Know someone that is hard to shop for? We have the perfect gift for you.

4 min read