Top ten cool group photos related to (mostly) electrical engineering

I’m a bit tired of pictures of football stars, politicians, and similar being identified as iconic, epic, etc. Yes, of course they are iconic: Reagan tears down walls and Kennedy lives in Berlin, etc. However, let’s go nerd and embrace ourselves and our community.

Master minds of the universe

A while ago I was at the D (Computer Science and Engineering) programme’s 40-year anniversary. John Wilander, from Apple, was there too, but unlike me he gave a presentation. He is a former D student at our university and also a former Ph.D. student at the Department of Computer Science. He talked about work culture in California and the way the engineers rule (in Silicon Valley at least..). People proudly stroll around with T-shirts: “I am an engineer”. That is less likely to happen here…

I got a bit inspired by that and wanted to evangelize a bit on top of that. So …

Here is my top ten list of cool group (arguably “group” for some of them) photos (arguably “photo” for one of them). But yet. Just imagine to stand there in the picture and the guy next to you is a Nobel prize winner, and the guy to your left and behind you. You’re a millionaire, but it does not matter, because the other guy is a billionaire, etc. I think you get the picture.

Behold: the top ten coolest group pictures of all time. And as usual – I do not claim any copyright on these pictures and I am also referring to the “original” source to the best of my knowledge and also credit them below the picture.

There is no special order of appearance.

  1. In the beginning was … Xerox

    We will start a bit slowly with the glimpse in the eye. However, people tend to forget Xerox from which – ironically – a lot of people copied technology… The mouse, the desktop publishing, and other things.

    For us in electronics engineering, we also remember Lynn Conway coming from the Xerox Parc facilities in Palo Alto. The Mead Conway revolution enabled a simplified understanding and option to fabricate chip for the “common-man”.

    In the center of the picture we have the hero of the group. The Xerox Alto machine, developed at the Xerox PARC, was one of the first computers to introduce the concept of a Desktop.

    The personal computer enters the world and we see computers with GUI and children are playing with the computer.

    [Link to Forbes]

  2. Steve Gates och Bill Jobs

    No comments needed really? The founders of Microsoft and Apple, a couple of future-to-be billionaires and philanthropists chilling in the stairs.

    This photo is taken in 1991 – a year when a 386 was da sh1t and the power-PC was discussed. Notice that during this time Jobs did not work for/with Apple. Instead, after he was kicked out in the mid 80’s, he founded the NeXT company. And as they chat, Jobs is not necessarily that future-to-be big guy. Notice that the operating system that he developed at NeXT (which was based on UNIX)later formed the basis of OS X, iOS and others.

    Even though we are today only some 30, 40 years into the computer era, is it fair enough to say that this is an iconic group photo? Well, I think it is. It shows that software is this the thing and it shows that design is also very important.

    [Linked to]

  3. Bell, Ford, and Firestone

    Bell, Ford, and Firestone are gathered around the American president in 1929. Why is this an iconic picture? (Bar the fact that everyone, but the president actually, are really, really famous). Well, we have a car manufacturer, a tyre and rubber manufacturer, and an electrical engineer (and inventor and much more). These people were among the most famous business men in the US at their time. They were also members of the exclusive Millionaire’s club.

    The interesting thing: Edison brought us the light bulb and other things. Mainstream electrical engineering becomes part of the new industrialization – equally important as cars and wheels.

    [From KineticBiz]

  4. Marconi, Tesla, Steinmetz, Einstein

    This picture is quite energetic. Not only brain power, but also electrical power is seen in the picture. Marconi is not in picture – in person. The people are however standing in front of a Marconi wireless station.

    The guy with the cowboy hat is a certain Prof. Einstein. The guy behind Einstein, to the right (for us), is not Nikola Tesla. (There have been some rumours about this picture). But since John Carson, the guy, is the inventor of single-sideband modulation (SSB) and looks quite much like the Serb, we will play with that thought for npw.

    More to the right, in the white suit, is Steinmetz. He was quite a prolific character of German descent. He took the name Proteus at arrival in America and then continued his career by contributing to the AC theory.

    There are some other famous people in the picture! For example Ernst Julius Berg – from Sweden. He has authored quite a few nice text books on electrical engineering that I plan to read some day. The soon more than 100 years old books are also available on-line.

    There are more people in the picture that you probably remember somewhere in the back of your head: Goldsmith, Sarnoff, and Langmuir (Nobel laurate). There is also Hull, the inventor of the magnetron among other things.

    [Used at Wikipedia, but found on]

  5. Touching the sky

    This is a back-stage photo. It is the “green room” for the ground personnel (probably there is a NASA abbreviation for that…) supporting the astronauts traveling to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

    During the missions these guys were the ones pulling the threads and making things happen. These are the ones helping you to macgyver an air filter in space in case you would have a problem.

    We have a set of engineers with neck ties and characteristic 1960s glasses. They are roughly your grandfather’s age. Monitors on the wall also offer not only information on display, but act also as coat hangers and places for the umbrellas.

    (What about the guy to the left, standing over the engineers’ shoulders? No neck tie, a pipe, Steve Jobs-polo shirt! The 1970s is rapidly approaching. The right-most guy, sporting a more formal black suit, looks a bit disappointed or suspicious with the polo-shirt appearance.)

    [From Nasa]

  6. Von Neumann, Oppenheimer and a maniac

    To the right we have von Neumann. He’s quite easy to identify for us.

    The fifth from the left is Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist known from the Manhattan project and one of the inventors of the atom bomb. “Despite” his German name, Oppenheimer was actually born in the US. He studied in Europe, during his Ph.D. studies, together with some of the greatest minds during that time.

    Far behind, we have another quite famous character: the MANIAC. (No, not ENIAC). The mathematical analyzer, numerical integrator and computer was developed by von Neumann and the name was chosen to stop the trend of silly computer names (UNIVAC, ENIAC, ABC, …)

    An interesting note: von Neumann worked at his best when listening to loud music (especially German march music…) and being in noisy enviroments. This annoyed his colleagues quite much. Oppenheimer ended up in the post-war anti-communist American age of fear and got discredited. (But pardoned by Kennedy in 1963 when Oppenheimer was awared the Enrico Fermi Award. Interestingly the Award was first given to von Neumann in 1956 which further links the two.).

    [From Princeton]

  7. Go out and save the world!

    Imagine this conversation in the 1940s England:

    -“Hah, today I mowed the lawn and gave the flowers some water! Hard work for a busy man. What did you do, honey? Pedicure?”
    -“Nothing special, I just cracked some codes, intercepted a few messages, shortened the war by a few years, saved the lifes of say 3-4 million people. Just an ordinary day for a 1940s housewife.”

    Below we find a group photo from the Bletchley park. It seems to be a sunny day in England and a set of codebreakers seem to enjoy standing there to be prepared to save the world.


  8. If you can carry that, you can carry this…

    If you are an imperial super power, rule over some 75% per cent of land and where the sun never sets then you better have some control over your colonies. There are stories of England being defeated in battles just because it took 40 (!) days to carry the messages back to London. This could not stand. Morse proved that long distance telegraphy could be done across the US continent. And if it can be on land, why not under the sea? Why not pull a cable 2200 miles (3000 km, or going from the southern tip of Sweden to its northern tip – and back again) across the atlantic and then send messages that way. In 1858 that sounded like a good idea, just before the North American civil war.

    So, off we go. Construct a 2200-odd mile long cable and gently drop it on the sea bed. (Gently was the key word, since the cable snapped quite a few times while placing it). The depth at the deepest places was as much as 14300 feet, 4400 metres. Pulling a cable across a 4400 metre high mountain on-land would in it self be an achievement.

    Anyway, the cable arrived in the end to the other continent and the first messages could be transmitted on August 16, 1858. It was a message from the queen to the US president. It took 17 hours to transmit – at a fantastic speed of 0.1 words per minute. Just imagine the frustration while hitting the key. The cable did not last long since one of the operators came up with the master plan to increase the voltage to speed up the messages a bit. The cable burnt up somewhere on the ocean border.

    The voltage, btw was in the order of kilovolts, and the resistance was a total of kilo-ohms. The current return path was through the ocean itself (and earth).

    In the picture below (it is not a photo, it is a painting. And a very staged one too: even the painter is in the far background of the picture – but still…), we have among others Mr. Morse (Morse code, anyone?). A bunch of long-bearded guys with the mindset to connect the world (and make some money on the deal). Cyrus Field, even though he connected the continents, however, ended up in bancruptcy at the end of his life.

    [From New York Stated Educational Department]

  9. Fairchild semiconductor

    These guys we shouldn’t forget either. They are the traitorous eight leaving Shockley “alone” in his lab. They are chilling in the foyer of the Fairchild Semiconductor venue.

    The photo is taken in the 1950’s. The men have slick glasses, neck ties, and suits. Back then this was the standard equipment for engineers. No pocket protectors nor repaired glasses.

    Anwyay, here they are gathered and prepared to revolutionize the world and probably change it forever. Speeding up the process of microelectronics engineering has today brought us more or less everything younger than 30 years that we see around us.

    Among others in the picture we find Robert Noyce (who effectively founded the Silicon Valley), Jean Hoerni, and Gordon Moore. Knowledgeable people that have influenced us all.

  10. Alea Jacta Est

    This is probably the coolest of the coolest guys in the hood. Only guys? Well, not only…

    In the front row, we have a lady who slipped into the picture to marinate in the sun together with all the professors and gentlemen. Is she there just to get some attention?

    Well, this is Marie Curie… She attended all of the Solvay conferences until her death. And she got the Nobel Prize too – twice! That’s more than the others got. She simply rockxz. (More than half of the people in the picture have got or will get the Nobel Prize).

    During the Solvay conference in 1927 electrons and photons were discussed. Einstein stated his famous quote when discussing the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: “God does not play dice”.

    Besides Einstein and Curie, we have again Langmuir but also Planck, Lorentz, Bohr, Dirac, Schrödinger, Pauli, and Heisenberg. Quite a team!



2 thoughts on “Top ten cool group photos related to (mostly) electrical engineering

  1. Pingback: Feedback – a quick overview | Mixed-Signal Comments

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