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Memorial Tributes: Volume 8 (1996)

Chapter: Allen M. Peterson

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Suggested Citation:"Allen M. Peterson." National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Memorial Tributes: Volume 8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5427.
Page 182
Suggested Citation:"Allen M. Peterson." National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Memorial Tributes: Volume 8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5427.
Page 183
Suggested Citation:"Allen M. Peterson." National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Memorial Tributes: Volume 8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5427.
Page 184
Suggested Citation:"Allen M. Peterson." National Academy of Engineering. 1996. Memorial Tributes: Volume 8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5427.
Page 185

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ALLEN M . 1922-1994 PETERSON BY VON R. ESHLEMAN ALLEN MONTGOMERY PETERSON, emeritus professor of electri- cal engineering, died of a heart attack at his home in Los Altos, California, on August 17, 1994. He was seventy-two. He was born in Santa Clara on May 22, 1922. He served in the Army Air Force during World War Il en c! was in the Battle of the Bulge. At Stanford University he received B.S. (194~3), M.S. (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) degrees in electrical engineer- ing. He rose to the rank of professor in 1961 and became emeritus in 1992. Peterson's association with Stanford University as student, researcher, and professor spanned half a century. Starting in 1954, Peterson held clual positions at the university ant! at the Stanforc! Research Institute (SRI), MenIo Park, through a spe- cial arrangement made by the late Frederick Terman, often called the father of Silicon Valley. At SRI, Peterson was a se- nior scientific adviser en c! was the key person in initiating en cl building up what became the Radio Physics Laboratory and the Communications Laboratory, where about three hundred people have been involves! in communications and defense problems. At Stanford, Peterson developed and taught courses on ra- dar systems, cligital signal processing, microprocessors, logic design, and cligital filters. He worked with a large number of graduate student assistants en c! was the mentor for approxi 183

184 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES mately one hundred students who received advanced degrees. Although officially retired, Peterson was the adviser for seven graduate students at the time of his death. With students and colleagues, Peterson initiated several sig- nificant areas of research, including racier oceanography and radar-acoustic sounding of the atmosphere. His dissertation studies and later research were instrumental in the develop- ment of the over-the-horizon radar systems that were installed in the United States and the Soviet Union for early warning of ballistic missile attack. His work in the 1950s on radar reflec tions from the trails procluced by meteors helped initiate continuing applications to communications and basic studies of the upper atmosphere. He was active in ionospheric and auroral studies during the International Geophysical Year. The innovative method Peterson invented for sounding the atmo- sphere with a combination of acoustic and radar waves led to commercial systems and stimulated international conferences on this method of environmental and weather measurement. He also helped start the discipline of radar astronomy, which has providecl new methods to study surfaces and atmospheres of the other planets of our solar system. Commercial applications of digital systems developer! by Peterson and his students include a widely applied filter bank for transferring between time and frequency division multi- plex signals in telecommunications systems; worIclwide sales of this and similar crevices were on the order of a billion dol- lars during the mid-l9SOs. Related studies at Stanford lecT to an early concept for a million-channel receiver for the nation- al program called the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. At the time of his death, Peterson was working with a former student on a technique for vastly reducing the power con- gumption of electronic chips. For decacles up to the time of his death, Peterson was in- volved with several Silicon Valley start-up companies, the Department of Defense, and other governmental agencies. Since 1961 he had been a member of the JASON group of about fifty academics who meet yearly to advise the secretary of defense on scientific matters relatecl to national defense.

ALLEN M. PETERSON 185 He was a member of the White House Science Council on Space Defense related to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Naval Strategies Board, the Air Force Studies Board, the Voice of America Broadcast Engineering Advisory Committee, the let Propulsion Laboratory Advisory Council, and several Na- tional Research Council committees. Peterson server! as a consultant to a number of companies en cl to the President's Science Advisory Committee, the De- fense Atomic Support Agency, the A(lvancec3 Research Projects Agency, the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Office of Tele- communications, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He served for a time as the chief scientist of the Science Appli- cations International Corporation. He had a long-term association with the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska and caused a "northern exposure" fracas when his ra- clar studies of the aurora lee! to an account in a local newspaper that he planned to turn off the northern lights. Allen Peterson touched the lives of numerous students, col- leagues, and friends throughout the worIcl. He will be sorely missed by all. He is survived by his wife of fifty-one years, Shirley, a full partner in the esteem of colleagues and students who were welcomed to their home, and by four children, three grand- chilciren, and two brothers. The Allen Peterson Memorial Fund has been establishecl in the Electrical Engineering Department at Stanford ant! will be used to assist graduate students.

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This series presents biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Engineering.

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