American Institute of Electrical Engineers

American Institute of Electrical Engineers

The American Institute of Electrical Engineers was a United States based organization of electrical engineers that existed between 1884 and 1963 (when it merged with the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE)). The 1884 founders of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) included some of the most prominent inventors and innovators in the then new field of electrical engineering, among them Thomas Alva Edison, Elihu Thomson, Edwin J. Houston, and Edward Weston. The purpose of the AIEE was stated "to promote the Arts and Sciences connected with the production and utilization of electricity and the welfare of those employed in these Industries: by means of social intercourse, the reading and discussion of professional papers and the circulation by means of publication among members and associates of information thus obtained." The first president of AIEE was Norvin Green, president of the Western Union Telegraph Company. Other notable AIEE presidents were Alexander Graham Bell (1891-1892), Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1901-1902), Schuyler S. Wheeler (1905-1906), Dugald C. Jackson (1910-1911), Michael I. Pupin (1925-1926), and Titus G. LeClair (1950-1951).

The first technical meeting of the AIEE was held during the 1884 International Electrical Exhibition, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (October 7-8, at the Franklin Institute). After several years of operating primarily in New York, the AIEE authorized local sections in 1902. These were formed first in the United States (Chicago and Ithaca, 1902) and then in other countries (the first section outside the US was Toronto, established 1903). The AIEE regional structure was soon complemented by a technical structure – the first technical committee of AIEE (the High Voltage Transmission Committee) was formed in 1903. Standardization work started in 1891 with the formation of a committee on units and standards, followed by a committee on standard wiring.

The formation of the AIEE Subcommittee on Large-Scale Computing in 1946 is considered a key milestone in the history of computer engineering. It was the first time that a professional association recognized the significance of computers and computing in electro-technology.

The early technical areas of interest of AIEE were electric power, lighting, and wired communications. Radio and wireless communications became the major focus of a rival organization, the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE, established 1912). The dynamic growth of radio technology and the emergence of the new discipline of Electronics in the 1940s led to stiff competition between AIEE and IRE, with IRE showing faster growth in the 1950s and early 1960s, and attracting more students. In 1957, IRE, with approximately 55,500 members, surpassed AIEE in membership size; in 1962 IRE had 96,500 members to AIEE’s 57,000.

AIEE and IRE merged in 1963 to form the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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