Professor Paul Penfield has been awarded the Dugald C. Jackson Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The chair is named after Professor Dugald Jackson, who was department head from 1907-35. In the more than quarter century since its establishment, this chair has been held by only two other people, Louis Smullin and Joel Moses.
Professor Penfield received the ScD in electrical engineering at MIT in 1960 and joined the faculty that year, becoming a full professor in 1969. Among his early research contributions was the first correct description of magnetic forces in time-varying magnetic fields. This led him to formulate more general results in special relativity of time-varying fields involving the energy-momentum tensor. The work appeared in Electrodynamics of Moving Media, co-authored with his thesis advisor, Hermann Haus (now an Institute Professor).
Professor Penfield's circuit-theory expertise and feeling for applications led to a widely recognized contribution to VLSI timing analysis. He formulated a set of closed-form formulas that give upper and lower bounds on signal delay through branching fanout networks on chips. These are several orders of magnitude faster to compute than numerical simulations on a circuit simulator like SPICE. He and his coauthors were awarded the IEEE Darlington Prize for this work.
In addition to his accomplishments in teaching and research, Professor Penfield has served the EECS department as associate department head, director of the Microsystems Research Center (now the Microsystems Technology Laboratories), and finally department head from 1989-99.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 26, 2000.