History Column

Your Engineering Heritage: The IEEE Global History Network

By Michael N. Geselowitz, Ph.D., IEEE History Center

After reading these columns, d0 you ever get the desire to participate in helping to preserve your engineering heritage? Well, now you have the chance, On 20 September, at IEEE Sections Congress 2008 in Quebec City, the IEEE unveiled a new Web site in support of its core purpose to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Developed by the History Center staff under the supervision of the History Committee, the wiki-based IEEE Global History Network (GHN) enables those in the United States and throughout the world, who have developed electrical, electronic and computer products and services to share their first-hand experiences. These shared experiences will anchor what will become the premier global record for preserving and interpreting the history of technological innovation, and for making that history available to the public.

The IEEE GHN will be the repository for all of the central historical knowledge and content of IEEE, and for the result of its historical activities. In addition, it enables individual IEEE members around the globe to contribute their personal involvement in technological innovation and excellence yesterday and today. Through these personalized, first-hand accounts, members have the opportunity to share with the world their experiences in developing products and services, from invention, R&D, and design to testing, production and commercialization. These first-hand accounts will also include the broader range of experiences–such as education and affiliation — that led to professional success.

Members simply log into the site [www.ieeeghn.org] using their IEEE web account user ID and password, and they are able to tell their own story while enhancing it with photos, drawings, diagrams, documents (in both word and PDF format), and video and audio recordings. A special feature of the IEEE GHN even enables individuals to write down their engineering experiences collectively as members of a group, such as an R&D lab or design team within a corporation. This feature will also enable the IEEE GHN to serve as a Web-based tool for IEEE organizational units, such as Sections, to preserve and present their heritage.

At the same time, members are able — in concert with fellow members, historians and other knowledgeable parties — to write wiki-style articles about the history of technology that will help IEEE to raise the public visibility of the role of IEEE, IEEE members, engineers, and related professionals in enhancing the quality of life and the environment through the years.

Unlike other online encyclopedias that may try to cover all areas of knowledge, the IEEE GHN will be solely focused on the history of technology. The IEEE GHN’s content will also be unique in both its multimedia approach and in content. No other wiki site dealing with technology or technical history offers the personal accounts of the technical innovators themselves. In other words, the IEEE GHN serves as a living, electronic memory of all the important contributions made by IEEE members and others to technological progress — from around the globe. As such, the site will never be “complete” — it will continually grow and expand to be a central site for members and others to explore the history of technological innovation. The concentration of knowledge and the assurance that the contributions are from IEEE members and backed by the IEEE brand will draw the attention of the general public to this valuable resource, and in turn enhance the public visibility and reputation of IEEE.

Finally, the IEEE GHN will enhance IEEE’s own historical activities. For example, the process of approving IEEE Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing will be streamlined. An interactive map feature allows any existing Milestone to be located, further raising the profile of the program. The oral history interviews of prominent engineers and scientists collected by the historians of the History Center will now be able to be enhanced by video clips and other features.


The GHN is a new service, and it is continuing to be developed to serve you and other professionals. For example, an interactive timeline is being developed that will complement the interactive map. Therefore, members are encouraged to use the “Feedback” link to provide comments and recommendations for further improvements.

So, visit the IEEE GHN today at www.ieeeghn.org.

Just log in with your IEEE Web account user ID and password!

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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