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Stephen S. Attwood

1953–1958 | Chair of Electrical Engineering
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Stephen S. Attwood.

Stephen Stanley Attwood spent nearly 50 years of his life at the University of Michigan, filling every role from student to dean. As chair of EE, he worked to keep the department on the map in a time of rapid curriculum change and a competitive job market for faculty.

Attwood came to Ann Arbor as a student from Cleveland in 1914 to earn a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He returned in 1920 as an Instructor in Electrical Engineering, and received his MS in EE in 1923. He became a full Professor in 1938 and Chair of the Department in 1953.

During those years he completed the first edition of a textbook, Electric and Magnetic Fields, which received 3 editions published between 1932 and 1967 in 3 languages. He pursued research in applying electromagnetic field theory to electrical problems.

Prof. Attwood was especially interested in investigating the effects of controlled surges on dielectrics, arcs, and cathode ray oscilligraphy. He did work for the Detroit Edison Company on natural lighting, and led the EE Department’s standardization laboratory that was largely responsible for Michigan’s adherence to the Bureau of Standards.

During the Second World War, Attwood departed for Columbia University to work in the Wave Propagation Group, division of War Research. There he directed research on radio-wave propagation, and prepared a lengthy official report on the work accomplished.

As Chair, Attwood sustained and strengthened the department in a time of rapid curriculum change and strenuous competition for personnel. In particular, he provided guidance in the development of new programs in astronautical and atomic engineering.

From 1957-58 he was also Acting Dean of the College, and served as Dean from 1958-1965. In memory of his service, the College of Engineering awards the Stephen S. Attwood award, which is the highest honor awarded to a faculty member by the College. It recognizes “extraordinary achievement in teaching, research, service, and other activities that have brought distinction to the College and University.”

Prof. Attwood passed away in June, 1965.

References and Further Reading

Stephen Attwood – U-M Faculty History Project

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