Milestones:First Technical Meeting of AIEE 1884


First Technical Meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1884


As part of the landmark International Electrical Exhibition organized by the Franklin Institute and held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1884, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, a predecessor of IEEE, held its first conference on 7-8 October 1884. This meeting was the first formal technical conference on electrical engineering held in the United States.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the Milestone Plaque Sites

39.9581389, -75.1726258, 222 North 20th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 39.958139, -75.172626

Details of the physical location of the plaque

The plaque will be mounted on the commemorative wall next to the main elevators on the Franklin Institute's first floor

How the intended plaque site is protected/secured

The Franklin Institute is open to the public. The building has security personnel and alarms when it is closed.

Historical significance of the work

As part of the landmark International Electrical Exhibition organized by the Franklin Institute and held in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1884, a technical conference was organized by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, attended by several native and sixteen foreign scientists and electrical engineers. This technical meeting is historically significant for being the first formal technical conference on electrical engineering held in the United States. The format and topics discussed in this conference served as a precursor for AIEE's future technical meetings. Moreover this meeting went on to being an annual fixture in AIEE's calendar. More importantly it resembled later conferences in many important respects thus setting the format for them; members of the AlEE delivered papers on a variety of electrical engineering topics and followed by a discussion on the papers. The topics presented encompassed both theoretical and practical interests as witnessed by the first paper read by Edwin J. Houston titled "Some Notes on Incandescent Lamps" which is of the former kind while the second paper read by W. M. Chandler on "Underground Wires" was directly aimed at the practical interests of the engineers. The presented papers also went on to appear in the society's first Transactions to be published early in 1885. The formation of AIEE ushered in the age of the professional engineer. The first AIEE president, Norvin Green, was the president of Western Union; the six vice presidents included Thomas Edison, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, MIT physics professor Charles Cross, two veteran telegraphers – George Hamilton and Franklin Pope, and an employee of equipment manufacturer Western Electric. Within a decade of its founding, AIEE had become the technical society for the electrical engineer. It was also an important developer of national and international standards. Beginning within a year of its founding by supporting wire gauge standards developed elsewhere; by the late 1890s, AIEE had turned to developing its own standards for electrical apparatus, and in 1898 issued the first report of its committee on standardization. Promulgation of standards became an ongoing activity. AIEE was one of the predecessor bodies of IEEE, presently the largest professional society in the world with 400,000 members.

Features that set this work apart from similar achievements

Although the American Electrical Society was founded in 1875, it, and a number of smaller societies that followed, did not survive the decade. The New York Electrical Society was formed in 1881 and the Franklin Institute's Electrical Section was formed in 1882. The motives in meeting at the Franklin Institute in 1884 are explained in Reiman below. For context see the GHN Topic Article on the IEEE Medal of Honor.

Significant references

Israel, P. (1992). From Machine Shop To Industrial Laboratory: Telegraphy And The Changing Context Of American Invention, 1830-1920. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

A. Michal McMahon, The Making of a Profession: A Century of Electrical Engineering in America, 1984, IEEE Press, pp 1-4 McMahon, A.M. (1976, Sept.). Corporate Technology: The Social Origins of the AIEE. Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 64, No. 9.

McMahon, A.M. (1984). The Making Of A Profession: A Century Of Electrical Engineering In America. IEEE. New York: IEEE Press.

Reiman, D. New York: IEEE. (1984, Mar.). Formative Years of the AIEE. IEEE Power Engineering Review.

John D. Ryder and Donald G. Fink, Engineers and Electrons, 1984, IEEE Press, pp 33-35

Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Vol 1, 1884

Supporting materials