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The IEEE formed in 1963 with the merger of

» the AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers, formed in 1884), and
» the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers, formed in 1912).

From its earliest origins, the IEEE has

» advanced the theory and application of electrotechnology and allied sciences;
» served as a catalyst for technological innovation;
» and supported the needs of its members through a wide variety of programs and services.

19th Century Growth

The last quarter of the nineteenth century was marked by a tremendous growth in electrical technology. By the early 1880s,

» telegraph wires crisscrossed the United States.
» Europe and America were connected by underwater cable.
» arc lights were in use in several cities.
» Thomas Edison's Pearl Street Station was supplying power for incandescent lights in New York.
» there were numerous firms manufacturing electrical equipment.
» the telephone was growing in importance as a communication tool.

The growth in technology and the planning for an international Electrical Exhibition to be held by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia prompted twenty-five of America's most prominent electrical engineers -- including Thomas Edison, Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston -- to call for the formation of a society to promote their burgeoning discipline.

AIEE: Wire Communications, Light and Power

On 13 May 1884, the AIEE was born in New York. It quickly gained recognition as a representative for American electrical engineers.

From the beginning, the major interests of the AIEE were

» wire communications and
» light and power systems.

An early and active participant in the development of electrical industry standards, the Institute laid the foundations for all work on electrical standards done in the United States.

But by 1912, the interests and needs of those specializing in the expanding field of radio could no longer be satisfied by periodic technical committee meetings in their local areas.

The IRE: Wireless Communications

Two largely local organizations -- the Society of Wireless and Telegraph Engineers and the Wireless Institute -- merged to form an international society for scientists and engineers involved in the development of wireless communications. Together they became the Institute of Radio Engineers.

Many of the original members of the IRE also were members of the AIEE. The structural development and general activities of both organizations were similar.

» Specialized segments were gathered into professional groups under a central governing body.
» Geographical units and student branches were formed.
» Meetings and publications facilitated the creation of an extensive literature and the exchange of knowledge.
» Membership grades were established.
» Standards development became a major effort.

The nature of radio technology extended the interests of the IRE beyond national boundaries. So the new organization sought and attracted members from several countries and eventually established units in several areas throughout the world. From the beginning, the Proceedings of the IRE regularly published papers from authors outside of the United States.

Enter 'electronics'

In the 1930's, electronics became part of the electrical-engineering vocabulary. Although electronics engineers typically became members of the IRE, the extensive applications of electron tube technology made it more and more difficult to distinguish the technical boundaries between the IRE and the AIEE.

After World War II, the two organizations became increasingly competitive. Problems of overlap and duplication of efforts arose, only partially resolved by joint committees and meetings.

AIEE, IRE Merge to form IEEE

In 1961, the leadership of both the IRE and the AIEE sought to resolve these difficulties through consolidation.  A merger plan was formulated and approved, becoming effective on 1 January 1963.