Archive for January, 2006

William L. Everitt

Sixty years ago this month, the PROCEEDINGS OF THE RADIO ENGINEERS (IRE) included a paper on Class C vacuum-tube amplifiers by William L. Everitt. At the time Everitt was teaching electrical engineering at Ohio State University. He is generally regarded as among the most outstanding engineering educators of the 20th century and was a recipient of the IRE Medal of Honor in 1954.

In his February 1934 paper, Everitt included a theoretical analysis of a triode Class C amplifier. His analysis indicated that there was a definite value of load impedance, grid bias, and grid excitation which would deliver a maximum output from the amplifier. He outlined a method to determine quickly the optimum operating conditions and provided quantitative design data for large-signal amplifiers.

Everitt was born in 1900 in Baltimore, MD, and graduated in electrical engineering from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1922. After working for about two years for the North Electric Manufacturing Company on telephone apparatus, he enrolled at the University of Michigan where he received the M.S. degree in 1926. He continued his graduate studies at Ohio State University where he received the Ph.D. degree in 1933, his thesis being on vacuum-tube amplifiers. He taught electrical engineering at Ohio State University from 1926 to 1942 and worked for several summers at the Department of Development and Research of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). He developed the concept of piecewise-linear analysis of large signal amplifiers. He incorporated recent research findings in a form suitable for use in classroom teaching in his book, Communication Engineering, published in 1932. The book enjoyed wide usage and was important in introducing the field of telecommunication to a generation of electrical engineering students.

During World War II, Everitt served as Director of Operations Research in the office of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army Signal Corps. He contributed a paper to the September 1944 issue of the PROCEEDINGS in which he discussed needed reforms in engineering education. He suggested that the disruption of education due to the war presented an opportunity for change and that there might not be another such opportunity in the foreseeable future. He stated that engineering students had been taught analysis but that they also needed to learn synthesis. He thought that the case method commonly used in legal training might also be applied to engineering education. He stressed the need to teach ethics and ” what engineering is, its philosophy, and what it can do.” He also recommended that a course on the “philosophy and methods of engineering” ought to be included in the cultural education of nonengineers. Everitt served as IRE President during 1945 and also was active in the American Society of Engineering Education as an advocate of reform, including greater emphasis on science and mathematics.

After the war, Everitt headed the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Illinois from 1945 to 1949 and then was Dean of Engineering at Illinois from 1949 to 1969. He played a key role in the creation of the Professional Groups system of the IRE, a system which continues to flourish in the IEEE. He received the Mervin J. Kelly Award of the IEEE in 1963 and became a founding member of the National Academy of Engineering. He served as general editor of a long series of electrical engineering textbooks published by Prentice-Hall. His hobbies included photography and woodworking. He died in September 1986.

James E. Brittain
School of History, Technology, and Society
Georgia Institute of Technology


Submitted by Dick Reiman, Historian

Copyright 1994 IEEE. Reprinted with permission from the IEEE publication, “Scanning the Past” which covers a reprint of an article appearing in the Proceedings of the IEEE Vol. 82, No.2, February 1994.


January 1st, 2006


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