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Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-06-030

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science span the years 1924 to 1985 and are arranged in four series: (1) Administrative, 1924-1981; (2) Student Records, 1937-1984; (3) Westinghouse Fellowship and Chair, 1958-1985; and (4) Accreditation, 1955-1982. Series 2 is further divided into four subseries: (1) Graduate Students, 1947-1981; (2) Withdrawn Graduate Students, 1956-1982; (3) Undergraduates, 1961-1982; and (4) Class Data, 1937-1963. The record group contains minutes, correspondence, reports and student records.


  • Creation: 1924-1985


Conditions Governing Access

Administrative records in series 1, 3 and 4 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in series 2, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, are restricted, as are employment records in series 1.


During the first thirty-six years of the University's existence, there was no separate school or department for the study of engineering in any form. However, Henry Rowland, first Professor of Physics, was preeminent in the field of electricity and its practical applications, pursuing ventures into the industrial uses of electrical science. In the late 1800s, Rowland served on an international commission to study the feasibility of harnessing Niagara Falls to produce hydroelectric power.

It was under Rowland's direction that Hopkins's first program in electrical engineering developed. In 1886, Louis Duncan, an 1885 Hopkins Ph.D. in Physics, became Associate in electricity and magnetism and taught a course designed "to teach the theory of electricity with a special view to its practical application." A two-year program in electrical engineering was soon established, and the first Certificates of Proficiency in Applied Electricity (P.A.E.) were awarded in 1888. The certificate program was discontinued when Duncan left the University in 1899.

Around 1908, the University began planning for a school of engineering. Assisted by a $600,000 appropriation from the Maryland Legislature, the Johns Hopkins University established the first engineering school in Maryland in 1912 (although it was not officially a "School" within the University until 1919). Both undergraduate and graduate students could choose from courses of study in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.

John B. Whitehead was chosen to head the electrical engineering department in 1913. Whitehead received his P.A.E. from Hopkins in 1893 and his A.B. in 1898, studying electrical aspects of physics under Rowland and Duncan. After a brief period spent working at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, Whitehead returned to Hopkins and received his Ph.D. in 1902. In 1904, he was appointed an Associate Professor of Applied Electricity, and in 1910 he was promoted to Professor. On assuming leadership of the new department, Whitehead was named Professor of Electrical Engineering. In 1919, when the School of Engineering was formally established, Whitehead became Dean and served in that capacity until 1938.

Whitehead's research centered on the insulation of electrical carriers, especially high-tension cables. During the First World War, he assisted the Army Engineers Corps in developing submarine detection instruments and methods. Recalled to service during the Second World War, he helped develop the process of "degaussing," or eliminating magnetic attraction in the hulls of steel ships (crucial to avoiding floating mines). During his career, Whitehead invented various electrical instruments, revised the theory of dielectrics, wrote four books and over a hundred articles, and was honored by scientific societies in France and Belgium. He retired from the University in 1942 and served as Professor Emeritus until his death in 1954.

William Bennett Kouwenhoven was named Instructor in Electrical Engineering in 1914. Kouwenhoven received Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering degrees from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1906 and 1907, respectively. In 1913, he received his doctorate in engineering from Karlsruhe Technische Hochschule in Germany. He taught for one year at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, before being appointed Instructor in Electrical Engineering at Hopkins in 1914. He was promoted to Associate in 1917, Associate Professor in 1919, and Professor in 1930. Kouwenhoven also served as Dean of the School of Engineering from 1938 to 1954, and he chaired the Department of Electrical Engineering from 1942 to 1954. Although named Professor Emeritus in 1954, Kouwenhoven was quite active, working on a wide variety of subjects.

Research on one of his primary interests, the effects of electric shock on linemen working on high tension power lines, led to a major breakthrough in the medical science of cardiology. Although scientists had known for many years that a momentary jolt of electrical current could restart a heart, it was not known how much current would be sufficient (and how much would be too much), or how it should be administered. After years of research, Kouwenhoven perfected a procedure for open-chest defibrillation in 1947. Although useful, this procedure required opening up the chest cavity, a very risky undertaking at that time. After another ten years of work, an apparatus for performing closed-chest defibrillation was introduced in 1957, allowing the procedure to be utilized outside of a hospital operating room.

Shortly after Kouwenhoven's retirement from the School of Engineering in 1954, in recognition of his continued work with cardiac defibrillation, he was appointed Lecturer in Surgery at the School of Medicine. As an extension of his work with defibrillation, Kouwenhoven developed the procedure, now know as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, which was first used successfully on human subjects in 1958. Realizing that, to be truly effective, these procedures would have to be widely available, Kouwenhoven pressed for programs to disseminate this knowledge where it would do the most good. Baltimore's firemen and ambulance crews were the first beneficiaries of instruction in defibril- lation and CPR, procedures now universal.

Kouwenhoven continued improving both the techniques and the apparatus for defibrillation through the 1960s. In 1969, in recognition of his advancement of medical science, Kouwenhoven was awarded an honorary M.D. degree, the only such degree ever awarded by Hopkins. He died in 1975, at the age of 89.

When Kouwenhoven retired from the chairmanship of the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1954, Ferdinand Hamburger was named to succeed him. Hamburger had attended Hopkins, receiving his Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1924, and his Ph.D. in 1931, after which he joined the faculty. His research focused on problems related to radio transmission and reception, such as high frequency propagation characteristics and ultra high frequency measurements, and he taught courses in the theory of radio, electron tubes, electricity and magnetism. From 1958 to 1971, Hamburger served as Director of the Carlyle Barton Radiation Laboratory, a research agency on the Hopkins campus which operated under contract with the U.S. Air Force. He was named Professor Emeritus in 1970 and was immediately appointed Director of Centennial Planning for the centennial celebration to be held in 1976. In 1977, in honor of Hamburger's service during the centennial and his role in establishing an archives, the University Archives was renamed the Ferdinand Hamburger Archives.

Since 1970, the department has been involved in the study of numerous facets of electrical engineering, including biomedical engineering, communications, magnetic phenomena, quantum electronics, solid state systems and communication sciences. William Huggins, appointed Westinghouse Professor of Electrical Engineering in 1961, succeeded Hamburger as chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department in 1971 and held that position until 1974. Huggins was instrumental in developing the study of computer sciences as an interdisciplinary program, in conjunction with the Departments of Statistics and Operations Research. This arrangement ended in 1983, when Computer Sciences became part of Electrical Engineering, a short-lived merger, for Computer Sciences became an independent department in 1986.

Willis Gore succeeded Huggins as chairman in 1974, followed by Wilson Rugh in 1980; Frederick Davidson was named chairman in 1983. Willis Gore again served, 1986-1987, and was succeeded on July 1, 1987, by Charles R. Westgate.

Annual Reports of the President. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
"Barton Hall." Vertical File, JHU Archives.
"Engineering." Vertical File, JHU Archives.
French, John C. A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1946.
"Hamburger, Ferdinand, Jr." Vertical File, JHU Archives.
Johns Hopkins University Circular. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
"Kouwenhoven, William Bennett." Vertical File, JHU Archives.
Whitehead, John B. "The School of Engineering (1912-1937)." Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine 25 (June 1937):323-39.
"Whitehead, John Boswell." Vertical File, JHU Archives.


10.07 Cubic Feet (26 letter size document boxes, 1 letter half-size document box)

Language of Materials



Transferred from the Department of Electrical Engineering to the Archives by Dr. William H. Huggins, Professor and Chair, and by Dorothy Cobb, Administrative Assistant.

Accession Number

85.27, 87.38.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Jennifer D'Urso and Scott Tonneberger.

Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA