Milestone-Proposal:First Technical Meeting of AIEE 1884

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Docket #:2012-04

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

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

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

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.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Philadelphia Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Drexel University IEEE Student Branch
Senior Officer Name: Fallon Kider (c/o Professor Adam fontecchio)

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Drexel University IEEE Student Branch
Senior Officer Name: Fallon Kider

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Drexel University IEEE Student Branch
IEEE Section Chair name: Fallon Kider (c/o Professor Adam Fontecchio)

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Moshe Kam
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

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

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

Are the original buildings extant?

Yes, but the original Franklin Institute building where the meeting was held is currently the Atwater Kent Museum, which does not allow plaques to be affixed to the building

Details of the plaque mounting:

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

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

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

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

The Franklin Institute

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

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.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

What features 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.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

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 (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.

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