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History of ECE at UCSD

ECE Faculty 1970-1971*

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology were established. These departments joined other departments at SIO, such as the Department of Earth Sciences, to form a strong science presence on the San Diego campus. In 1960 the Regents established San Diego as a general campus, with Herbert York as the first chancellor. The San Diego campus was to be equal in size with the other general University of California campuses. At that time the target enrollment was 27,500 students, to be achieved in 1995. The expansion of the San Diego campus into a general campus was largely due to the efforts of SIO Director Roger Revelle.

With the existence of graduate programs at SIO and in new science departments, UCSD had the advantage of developing from the  top down. That is, top research faculty could be recruited because a core of outstanding faculty was already here. Furthermore, research programs could be established quickly because initially only graduate courses were offered, with undergraduate enrollments  starting in 1964 and growing relatively slowly afterwards. Although some faculty wished for a small campus, like that of Caltech, with mostly graduate students, most faculty recognized that UCSD was to become a large diverse campus like UC Berkeley and UCLA.

The UCSD development plan is the core of its present excellence. Only one other university developed from a similar “top down” procedure, the highly-regarded University of Chicago, which was established in the late 1800’s. James Arnold, who came to UCSD from the University of Chicago, induced his Chicago colleague, Nobel laureate Harold Urey, to join him here. The presence of Harold Urey and other distinguished scientists at UCSD was well known to potential engineering faculty being recruited for early positions. During the 1960’s UCSD enjoyed outstanding support from the UC administration, with large numbers of new faculty positions being allocated so that departments could be established rapidly.

The first engineering faculty arrived on the San Diego campus in 1964, but the groundwork for engineering programs began in 1958, when the Regents of the University of California established an Institute of Technology and Engineering on the campus. At that time the San Diego campus consisted of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), which provided a prestigious setting for launching an expansion in science and engineering. In 1959 the Institute of Technology and Engineering was renamed the School of Science and Engineering. This “school” was just a framework for setting up science and engineering departments. During the early years the departments reported directly to the campus vice chancellors, so there was no separate administration for a school of science and engineering. It wasn’t until 1982 that a Division of Engineering was established, with Lea Rudee as dean. In 1994 the Division of Engineering became the School of Engineering, and was renamed the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering in 1998.

The departments were created by first selecting department chairs, who then recommended faculty appointments to their departments. Department chairs to the early departments were selected by James R. Arnold, who was the chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Keith Brueckner, who served as Dean of the San Diego Campus, as well as chair of the Department of Physics. The first two engineering and applied science departments were established in 1964 and 1965. Brueckner, along with other science faculty, felt strongly that the new departments should be applied science departments rather than conventional engineering departments. This focus on applied science existed because in the 1960’s many of the conventional engineering departments emphasized empirical engineering methods rather than incorporating the latest scientific methods into their curricula.

In 1964 Brueckner appointed Caltech professor, Stanford S. Penner, as chair of the first engineering department, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Sciences. The word “Sciences” was included to emphasize the applied science nature of the program. Later the department was renamed Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences (retaining the acronym AMES). AMES is the parent department of the Departments of Bioengineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Structural Engineering.

The Department of Applied Electrophysics was formed in 1965, with Cornell professor Henry G. Booker appointed as chair. Booker  was critical of conventional engineering departments that emphasized empirical design, and had published an article (Science 146, 35-37, 1964) that called for integrating areas in the physical sciences with similar areas in engineering. Indeed, this was largely the situation at UCSD: there was considerable coordination of research across departmental boundaries, as well as between groups within departments.

Booker proposed that the Department of Applied Electrophysics develop in three areas: (1) solid state physics, particularly quantum electronics; (2) atmospheric, ionospheric, and solar system physics, radio astronomy; and (3) information theory and communication theory. In 1969 the department was renamed the Department of Applied Physics and Information Science (APIS); it was later renamed the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS), before splitting into the present Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE).

During the last half of the 1960’s the Department of Applied Electrophysics offered the degree Bachelor of Arts with programs in applied physics, and in information and computer science. MS and PhD degrees were offered in applied physics, and in information and computer science. The graduate program comprised three main divisions of study: information and computer science; radiophysics; and applied physics.

Most of the early faculty remained at UCSD for the remainder of their careers. A few of the early faculty left for positions in industry or to start up their own companies. Irwin Jacobs was highly successful in forming Linkabit and then Qualcomm, and in 1968 his financial and leadership contributions to UCSD resulted in the renaming of the school of engineering as the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering.

The UCSD master plan divides the campus into colleges as a means of giving undergraduates a small college environment for living and academic purposes.  Because a student’s college determines his or her general education requirements, UCSD engineering students are often more broadly educated than engineering students at other universities, where general education requirements are usually determined by the schools of engineering. Consistent with this college plan, departments extend across all of the UCSD colleges, and in the early years department chairs reported directly to the campus administration (chancellor and vice chancellors).

*Pictured in photo:

Top row:  R. Moore, J. Schalkwijk, G. Lewak, I. Jacobs, H. Chivers, S. Duntley, J. Doupnik

Center row:  G. Arrhenius, H-L Luo, A. Lohmann, I. Axford, V. Rumsey, T. Yeh

Bottom row:  C. Helstrom, E. Masry, P. Banks, H. Booker, M. Rotenberg, J. Fejer