Celebrating the Lifetime of Columbia Professor Stephen Unger

Celebrating the Lifetime of Columbia Professor Stephen Unger


Stephen Unger, founder and previous president of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Know-how, died on 4 July on the age of 92. An IEEE Fellow, he performed a principal function in growing the IEEE Code of Ethics.

Unger was professor emeritus of laptop science and electrical engineering at Columbia, the place he taught programs on know-how and its influence on society.

He was a Guggenheim Fellow in addition to a Fellow of the American Affiliation for the Development of Science.

From Bell Labs to Columbia

Photo of a smiling man in a sweater

IEEE Society on Social Implications of Know-how

Unger obtained his bachelor’s diploma in electrical engineering in 1952 from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York, now the New York College Tandon Faculty of Engineering. He went on to earn a grasp’s diploma and Ph.D. in EE from MIT in 1953 and 1957, respectively.

He joined the technical employees at Bell Labs in Whippany, N.J. Whereas there, he led the staff that developed software program instruments that supported the primary digital phone switching system.

In 1961 Unger left Bell Labs and joined Columbia, the place he taught programs in digital programs, software program, and laptop principle. He retired in 2005.

All through his profession, he consulted for know-how firms together with Bell Labs and IBM.

Unger was devoted to selling ethics in engineering. He printed three books on the subject, together with Controlling Know-how: Ethics and the Accountable Engineer. He wrote a number of papers on ethics and know-how, in addition to laptop science, and he penned articles for IEEE Know-how and Society Journal and The Institute.

Unger’s private weblog, “Ends and Means,” addressed moral questions surrounding training, digital voting, robotics, and different matters.

Steering for engineers on moral points

Along with his writing, Unger utilized his ardour for ethics to his volunteer work with IEEE. In 1969 he helped to discovered the Committee on Social Duty in Engineering, a corporation of engineers who had been involved in regards to the methods know-how was getting used. The committee was renamed the IEEE Technical Actions Board Committee on Social Implication of Know-how three years later. Unger served as its vice chairman in 1980.

In 1982 the committee was granted society standing because the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Know-how. It investigates the environmental, financial, well being, and security implications of know-how. Unger served because the society’s 1985–1986 president.

“One of many issues that he was most pleased with was his function in creating the Society [on] Social Implications of Know-how,” Unger’s son Donald says.

He additionally helped set up the IEEE SSIT’s first award, the Carl Barus Award for Excellent Service within the Public Curiosity. It acknowledges people who take motion to profit the general public, typically on the threat of their very own careers and reputations.

Unger served on the IEEE Board of Administrators and on IEEE ethics committees. He fought for years to ascertain and keep assist for moral conduct by IEEE members, together with an IEEE ethics hotline.

He was a member of the IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee from 1995 to 1998 and served as its chair in 1997 and 1998. The committee was established to self-discipline members for unethical conduct and to supply moral assist in issues affecting a member’s employment.

Unger performed a principal function within the improvement of the unique IEEE Code of Ethics in 1974 and helped replace it in 1990.
He served on the IEEE Technical Actions Board, the Publication Providers and Merchandise Board, and the Instructional Actions Board.

He obtained a number of awards together with the 2000 IEEE Millennium Medal, the 1987 IEEE-USA Robert S. Walleigh Distinguished Contributions to Engineering Professionalism Award, and the 1984 IEEE Centennial Medal.

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