John Whinnery: Fields and waves

Berkeley Engineering 150John WhinneryJohn Whinnery addressing a university-industry conference in 1972.In the 1930s, John Whinnery was among the early students in the electrical engineering department (which was created in 1931). After graduating in 1937, he took a job with General Electric in Schenectady, New York, working on projects needed to develop robust radar technology, which was crucial to the war effort.

Whinnery returned to Berkeley in 1946 as a lecturer and doctoral student. He then became an associate professor and in short order was promoted to full professor. During his academic career, Whinnery wrote more than 200 journal articles and several editions of what is now considered a classic in the field: Fields and Waves in Modern Radio co-authored with Simon Ramo), which by the 1960s became Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics, published with Ramo and Theodore Van Duzer.

Whinnery also held significant roles in the college administration, including department chair of electrical engineering and dean of the college from 1959-1963. For his notable contributions to Berkeley Engineering’s teaching environment (many of his students went on to become leaders in laser and optical communications) and to the college community more generally, Whinnery was awarded the UC Berkeley Distinguished Alumni Award in 1980 and the Berkeley Citation in 1987.

John Whinnery receiving the National Medal of ScienceJohn Whinnery (right) receiving the National Medal of Science from President George H.W. Bush at the White House in 1992.Outside of Berkeley, Whinnery was also widely recognized. He was a fellow of the Optical Society of America and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and a life member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the IEEE. He received the National Medal of Science (1992); the IEEE Medal of Honor (1985); the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Microwave Career Award (1976) and its Centennial Medal (1984); the NAE Founders Award (1986); the ASEE Benjamin Garver Lamme Award (1974), and the Okawa Prize (1997). He also received the IEEE Education Medal (1967) and was named an Outstanding Educator of America (1974).

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