Helpful Hints on Citations, Plaque Locations

Because Milestones are dedicated in many different parts of the world, and each situation varies, this page is intended to help people writing Milestone Proposals with hints and suggestions. Consult with staff at for additional advice.

Writing a good citation

The goal is to make the citation as meaningful as possible to the general public. One of the secrets to writing a good citation is to focus on the achievement, and what made the achievement most significant. The broader the claim, the harder it is to support, and thus the harder for the History Committee to approve the milestone. "First" is often difficult to prove, so it is best to avoid the word unless you have very solid documentation.

Names of living persons are not normally used in citations. Exceptions to this are cases where the person's name is linked to the achievement itself (e.g. the Lempel-Ziv algorithm, Maxwell's Equations, etc.) or where the person's name is so widely recognizeable to the general public that it makes sense to use it. When used, the names should be the names of the engineers, scientists, or technologists who actually made the achievement, rather than managers or executives.

Corporate names may be used in citations. Company names should be spelled out whenever possible, unless their initials are so well known to the general public as to make this unnecessary. Care should also be used in deciding whether to use the company name as it was at the time of the achievement, or the current name, which might have changed via merger or some other reason. A solution often used is include both in a phrasing something like "...developed by EEC (at that time Electrical Engineering Co.)..."

Avoid using words such as "today," or "now" (e.g. "...led to many devices in use today...") as the plaque is intended to be relevant many years from the date it is mounted and even a widespread technology might no longer be in use in the future.

When possible, write the citation in the active rather than the passive voice. E.g. "On this site, XYZ developed the device..." is better than "The device was developed at this site by XYZ corporation..."

Acronymns should be spelled out unless they are in common usage.

Location of the plaque(s)

Finding an appropriate location for the milestone plaque is sometimes one of the most difficult obstacles milestone proposers face. The building where something happened may have been torn down or altered; the achievement might have occurred in a place not safe or accessible to the public (on a satellite in space, on the main line of a railroad, etc.); the owners of the site may not wish to have a plaque attached to their property, etc.  However, with some creative thinking, an appropriate place can usually be found. If the lab where something was developed no longer exists, perhaps the place where it was demonstrated to the public, or had its first operational use, is.  In cases where the location is remote (e.g. a power transmission line), a duplicate plaque at the power utility's in-town offices may be appropriate.

The purpose of the plaque is to increase the general publics appreciation of the heritage of IEEE's fields of interest, and the plaque location should be chosen with that in mind.

Following are some examples of location obstacles, and the solutions used. Details may be found on the specific milestone pages (see list of dedicated milestones).

Telstar Satellite: The ground station in Andover, Maine, was no longer in existance, and the land itself was owned by a new owner, and was not publicly accessible. The plaque was therefore mounted on a stone in the town commons nearby, where many more people would see it and be aware of the importance.

Thomas A. Edison West Orange Laboratories: The Laboratories are owned by the United States National Park Service, which does not allow plaques on its property. The nominators approached the Town of West Orange, which made a site for the plaque available in a well-trafficked area a little more than 1 km away from the labs.

Here is a photograph of an attractive mounting of the Milestone plaque for the First Optical Fiber Laser and Amplifier in the Southbridge, Massachusetts town common. The building where the laser was developed (in the background) had been converted to private residences, and did have an appropriate place to attach the plaque. Therefore, the plaque was placed in the more public commons nearby.
Here is an example of a pedestal mounting of a milestone plaque.
Here is an example of a wall mounting of a milestone plaque with a second plaque bearing the translation.
Here is an example of an exterior wall mounting of a milestone plaque.
The Uruguay Section came up with an elegant way to create the Spanish translation of the milestone plaque for the Rincon del Bonete Hydroelectric Station. The bronze English-language plaque is mounted on the powerhouse wall, while the lucite translation is mounted in the overlook. Both are viewable by the public.
Here is an example of a sidewalk mounting of a milestone plaque.

For details of plaque dimensions, bolt hole locations, and the hardware involved in installing a plaque, please see Plaque mounting details

Back to Milestone Program Guidelines