Biography of Robert Hugh Tanner
1915 - 2002
page en français
By means of the IEEE Canada Robert H. Tanner Industry Leadership Award,
IEEE Canada commemorates these industry and volunteer leadership
contributions to IEEE and IEEE Canada.
Robert H. (Bob) Tanner received his B. Sc. In Electrical Engineering and
his M. Sc. in Acoustics from Imperial College of Science and Technology
in London, England, and began his career with the British Broadcasting
Corporation as a pioneer in the world's first high definition television
station developing audio techniques and researching the acoustics of
studios and concert halls. Following service in the Royal Signals during
WWII, Bob emigrated to Canada with his young family in 1947 where he
commenced an outstanding engineering career with Northern Electric in
Belleville, Ontario. He moved to Ottawa in 1960 where he helped found
Northern Electric's research and development division, Bell Northern
Research, and subsequently the Canadian Department of Communications.
He contributed to Canadian engineering in many fields, managing the
development of products and systems from audio equipment to microwave
relay stations. His skill as an engineer and a manager was recognized by
his appointment in 1973 as Director of Industrial Research of the
Canadian Department of Communications.
In 1975, after leaving the Department of Communications in Ottawa,
Robert, with his wife Joan, moved to Naples, Florida, where became a
consultant - as an accomplished acoustical engineer - and carried out
the acoustical design of many important buildings, including the Royal
Canadian Mint in Ottawa, the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, the
Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto as well as an Air Force
Academy in Saudi Arabia, the new Canadian Embassy in Washington, and the
Philharmonic Hall in Naples.
He was active for many years in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers) and its predecessor society IRE (Institute of
Radio Engineers). He joined the I.R.E. in 1938, became a Senior Member
in 1948 and a Fellow in 1958. In 1955, he helped to found the Bay of
Quinte Section, and after moving to Ottawa became Section Chairman there
in 1965. [Note: IRE and AIEE merged in 1963 to form IEEE.] He was also
Secretary Treasurer of Region 7 from 1963 to 1967. He was elected
Regional Director in 1968, and conceived the plan to divide Canada into
three Councils; this plan led to the Area system now adopted throughout
IEEE. He also led the establishment of the Region 7 (later IEEE Canada)
awards program by initiating the presentation of the A.G.L. MacNaughton
Gold Medal in 1969. He was appointed Institute Secretary in 1970, and
elected [Executive] Vice-President in 1971. He was elected IEEE
President in 1972 - becoming the first Canadian member to hold this high
During his year of office as IEEE President, he set up the U.S.
Activities Committee (then USAB and subsequently IEEE USA), and steered
the Constitutional Amendment on professional activities through the
Board of Directors to an overwhelming acceptance by the membership.
Since 1972 he has remained active on several Institute committees. He
was one of the founding directors of the IEEE Foundation - serving on
the Board from 1972 to 1985. Bob Tanner was the principal author of the
first IEEE long range planning report. It spelled out an evolution for
IEEE regions to become self governing.
Bob Tanner received several prestigious awards. IEEE Canada (then IEEE
Region 7) awarded him the A.G.L McNaughton Gold Medal for exemplary
contributions to the engineering profession in 1974. IEEE awarded him
the Haraden Pratt Award for Service in 1981 - his citation reads 'for
contributions toward professionalism and dedicated service to the
Canadian Region, to the IEEE, and to the profession over many years'. In
1989, Concordia University in Montreal bestowed on him an Honorary LL.D.
for his services to engineering.
Awards and Recognitions
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