The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE) is the world’s largest technical society, with about 420,000 members. Although founded in the US in 1884, over half its members are international. Its highest rank is Fellow, which can only be achieved by getting 13 other Fellows to nominate you. That makes it a pretty good estimate of the leading electrical engineers in the world.
The IEEE doesn’t expose a single list of them, but does scatter a lot of data about them across its website. I’ve collated data from there into this spreadsheet – IEEE Fellow Stats. Let me try to answer some questions about them:
Q: How many are there?
About 10,000 have achieved this rank, of whom about 800 are known to be deceased. The earliest was E. Weber in 1934. About 300 new Fellows are elevated a year out of a voting membership of 340K. Of those 300, about 160 are American, a little over 50%. About 10% are women.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there were 400K US electrical engineers in 2016, including occupation codes 17-2071, 17-2072, and 17-2061. That would make about 40% of them IEEE members. There have been about 3000 US Fellows elevated since 1999, which would be ~0.7% of the total in the field. Here’s a 1% one can be proud to belong to!
Q: Are there any I would know?
- Jack Kilby (1966) – co-inventor with Robert Noyce of the integrated circuit and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
- Gordon Moore (1968) – co-founder, again with Noyce, of Intel, and author of Moore’s Law, which has driven our industry for fifty years
- Andy Grove (1972) – president of Intel during its formative years, and one of the creators of Silicon Valley
- Paul E. Gray (1972) – president of MIT, and author of the definitive textbook on transistor circuits
- John Hennessey (1991) – president of Stanford, and co-creator of RISC computing
- Andrew Viterbi (1973), co-founder of Qualcomm, and inventor of Viterbi coding, which is used in all cellphones
- Ray Dolby (2010) – founder of Dolby Labs, and inventor of noise removal schemes used on every medium since cassette tapes
Q: Where do they live?
The IEEE breaks the world into regions, which look like this:
|Region||Region name||Region main states||Fellows 2016|
|8||Europe, Middle East, Africa||UK,DE,FR,NL,IS||65|
|10||Asia and Pacific||CH,JP,TW,HK,AU||58|
They occasionally cite a Region 11, Low Earth Orbit, but that’s not heavily populated, yet. Europe got the most here, followed by Asia, the US Northeast, and US West.
If we break this down more finely for the last five years:
|Fellow Elevations 2012-2016|
|US States||Non-US Countries|
|District of Columbia||8||Greece||6|
|USA total||836||Other total||680|
Pennsylvania does better than I expected, as does Italy. Among US states, Washington DC has the most per-capita (14.1 / million), followed by Massachusetts (7.6), New Mexico (6.3) and California (4.5). Among countries, Hong Kong has the most per capita (5.0), followed by Singapore (2.9), Switzerland (2.6), Canada (1.7), and Australia (1.6). It’s surprising to see no one here from Russia, but they do have IEEE chapters there, so their time will come.
To narrow it down even further, the top five places for Fellows are:
- Tokyo, Japan – 24
- Beijing, China – 23
- Atlanta, GA, USA – 20
- Cambridge, MA, USA – 19
- Pittsburgh, PA, USA – 18
- Yorktown Heights, NY, USA – 18
Q: When do they tend to get elevated?
Here’s the breakdown by age for 2016:
|Ages||31 -39||40 -44||45 -49||50 -54||55 -59||60 -64||65 -69||70 -76||77 -85||85+||Not Given|
I have to admire the energy of the five 77+ Fellows! The average and median age is about 53. That means it takes about 30 years of work after one’s bachelor degree to hit this rank.
Q: Where do they work?
Here are the top institutions mentioned in the elevation citations:
|Fellows Elevated by Institution 2012-2016|
|27||IBM||56||U. California||9||None listed|
|12||Microsoft Research||19||Georgia Tech||5||INRIA|
|8||Broadcom||15||Hong Kong University||5||NIST|
|6||NTT||13||Texas A&M University||4||Sandia National Laboratories|
|6||General Electric||11||Tsinghua University||3||Naval Research Laboratory|
|6||Hewlett-Packard||11||Arizona State U||3||US Army Research Office|
|5||Siemens||9||National Chiao Tung U||2||IMEC|
|4||Texas Instruments||9||Stanford University||2||ISO New England|
|4||Huawei||9||Purdue University||2||Telecom ParisTech|
|3||Hitachi||8||Seoul National U||2||German Aerospace Center (DLR)|
|3||Analog Devices||8||U Michigan|
|3||Google Inc||8||Iowa State University|
|3||Quanta Technology||8||Boston University|
|3||Qualcomm||7||University of Florida|
IBM and the University of California rule. The smallest companies listed are Quanta Technology, which does utility R&D, and Analog Devices, which makes a wide range of analog interface chips and DSPs. The schools are all familiar, except for Hong Kong University. Arizona State, Iowa State and Imperial College show well. NASA is where it should be. Nine people had no affiliation and 5 were just consultants.
Q: Big takeaway?
Talent is everywhere. It’s in Wyoming, and Qatar, and Montenegro. Some places, like IBM, have an abundance of it, but you can find it all over the world.
It’s interesting that none were from the University of Illinois (my school). It used to be that almost the entire EE department was all IEEE fellows. I wonder if they were purchasing professors that were already fellows, or whether the average age of their professors was outside the most common age of winning the IEEE fellow designation. UIUC used to have a method of self-electing most of their faculty as fellows; it was not hard to game the system.