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Research Areas


John R. Whinnery received both his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1937 and 1948, respectively. In the intervening years from 1937-1946, he was with the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, working on problems in waveguide discontinuities, microwave tubes, and applications to radar, which also aided the war effort. Upon returning to Berkeley in 1946, Whinnery joined the faculty as a Lecturer and, upon completion of his doctorate under Lester E. Reukema in 1948, became an Associate Professor and in quick succession a Full Professor. During his long tenure, Whinnery held various administrative positions at the University, beginning with the directorship of the Electronics Research Laboratory (1952-1956), followed by the chairmanship of the Electrical Engineering Division/Department (1956-1959), and finally as dean of the College of Engineering (1959-1963). In 1980 he was designated as a University Professor and was honored to receive the UC Berkeley Engineering Alumni Society's Distinguished Alumni Award. Upon his retirement as a Professor Emeritus in 1987, he was awarded the Berkeley Citation, one of the highest honors bestowed by the campus, for his extraordinary service to the University.

In his capacity as an academician, Prof. Whinnery authored or co-authored over 200 journal articles and conference papers, eventually becoming a leader in microwave and solid-state laser research with specialization in the communications applications of lasers with emphasis on short-pulse phenomena. He published five books, the most noteworthy of which is the classic text, Fields and Waves in Modern Radio in 1944 (with Simon Ramo, whom Whinnery met while at GE) followed by a second edition in 1953, and its continuation version, Fields and Waves in Communication Electronics (with Simon Ramo and Theodore Van Duzer) in 1965, followed by two additional editions in 1984 and 1994.

As an educator, Whinnery's students continue to be leaders in the laser and optical communications field and that of the technology of solid-state devices. To name but a few, these are John A. Buck, Connie Chang-Hasnain, William M. Clark, Malcolm R. Currie, Chenming C. Hu, Erich P. Ippen, Ronald V. Schmidt, and Theodore Van Duzer.

Prof. Whinnery received many honors during his career for his academic achievements; his qualities as an educator; and his distinguished service on numerous governmental and university advisory committees, as well as his administrative leadership at the University of California at Berkeley. A Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Whinnery was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a life member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the IEEE, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was the recipient of the National Medal of Science (1992); the IEEE Medal of Honor (1985); the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Microwave Career Award (1976) and its Centennial Medal (1984); the NAE Founders Award (1986); the ASEE Benjamin Garver Lamme Award (1974), and the Okawa Prize (1997). He also received the IEEE Education Medal (1967) and was named an Outstanding Educator of America (1974).

Prof. Whinnery passed away in 2009.


  • 1948, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, UC Berkeley
  • 1937, B.S., Electrical Engineering, UC Berkeley

Selected Publications

Awards, Memberships and Fellowships