The Early Pioneers of the EMC Society

In the mid-1950s, a group of professionals in the electrical engineering sector of radio frequency interference (RFI), began to formulate the idea of creating an organization devoted to their specialty.

These informal discussions came to a climax at a luncheon on February 27, 1957 during the Third Conference on RFI Reduction sponsored by the Armour Research Foundation in Chicago. In his speech, Mr. Fred Nichols, Vice-Chairman of the Radio Interference Technical Committee of the Los Angeles area, proposed starting a national professional group on RFI, and six individuals at the luncheon enthusiastically endorsed the idea and helped make it happen. Those individuals included Anthony Zimbalatti, Milton Kant, Harold Schwenk, John Lucyk, Albert Ruzgis, and S. Nellis. The six individuals from the East Coast, along with Mr. Nichols and other involved engineers, eventually gathered 325 signatures on a petition that was delivered to the New York Office of the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) in July of 1957. The petition to form a group devoted to radio frequency interference was approved by the IRE on October 10, 1957, and the first organizational meeting of the Professional Group on RFI was held on November 20, 1957 in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

This article addresses the pioneering work of Mr. Schwenk, Mr. Leonard Milton, Mr. Albert Kall, Mr. James McNaul, Mr. Milton Kant, Dr. Ralph Showers, Mr. Anthony Zimbalatti and Mr. Sam Burruano.

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Some Early Pioneers of The EMC Society
The First Officers of the Professional Group on Radio Frequency Interference (PGRFI) and Involved Individuals: 1950 -1959

Harold R. Schwenk
(November 1, 1923 – March 2, 1988)
The first chairman of the Professional Group on RFI (PGRFI) was Harold Raymond Schwenk. (The PGRFI was the predecessor of the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)). Mr. Schwenk was known for his teaching capability, especially with his fellow engineers. He joined the Sperry Gyroscope Company in New York, where he was involved with analyzing, designing, testing and reworking electronics equipment to assure compliance with RFI/EMI/EMC requirements. In addition to founding the PGRFI, he also founded the Metropolitan New York EMC Society Chapter and served as chairman of that Chapter several times. In 1967, he took his EMC expertise to Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, New York. There, Mr. Schwnenk used his education and experience to help design the EMC capabilities of the A-6B, EA-6B, E-2B/C, F-14 and EF-11 aircraft. Harold also performed EMC engineering experiments that led to advancements in the design of shielded structures, including protecting electronics in all-composite aircraft from lightning effects.

Leonard Milton

Mr. Milton was the first vice-chairman of the PGRFI and also served a second term as vice-chair from 1 July 1960 to 30 June 1961. He served on the Constitution Committee of the PGRFI and was the first chairman of the Liaison Committee of the PGRFI. Mr. Milton was an executive vice-president of Filtron Company in 1959 and became president of Filtron Corporation in 1962.

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Leonard Milton is seated in the center of the front row.

Albert Kall
Mr. Kall was the first secretary of the PGRFI and served two other terms as secretary. He also chaired the Technical Advisory Committee of the Administrative Committee of the PGRFI. Mr. Kall chaired the Technical Papers Committee in 1960, and in 1961 and 1962, he was acting editor of the Transactions for the PGRFI. Finally, he was an associate editor for the Transactions from 1970-1974. Mr. Kahll had a long career in industry with the Ark Engineering Company.

James McNaul
1202 pioneers dh-mcnaulMr. McNaul was the first treasurer (1957-1959) and the second chairman (July 1, 1959 – June 30, 1960) of the Administrative Committee of the PGRFI. As a member of the Constitution Committee, he was also instrumental in drafting a constitution for the PGRFI. McNaul was a lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps R&D Labs at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey from 1956-1958. While at Fort Monmouth, he was assigned as Assistant Project Officer to Project MONMOUTH, a large scale investigation of communication systems in a future European war, with particular emphasis on new communication technologies and the radio frequency interference potential resulting from its introduction into the Army structure. It was a three-year study using civilian contractors in cooperation with Army professional engineers. In 1961, McNaul joined the Army Satellite Communications Agency, becoming Assistant Technical Director. In 1964, James returned to school at Stanford University and earned his Ph.D. in business. He then pursued a career in academia and business until his retirement in 1999. Dr. McNaul was a principal participant in the 50th Anniversary of the EMC Society in Hawaii in 2007.

Milton Kant
Mr. Kant was an original member of the Administrative Committee of the PGRFI and helped prepare a draft Constitution for the PGRFI. He was also the first editor of the PGRFI Newsletter, and published that issue on January 2, 1958. He then served on the Newsletter Committee of the PGRFI. Milton served as secretary of the Adminatrative Committee of the PGRFI in 1961. He also served as chairman of the Information Retrieval Committee (which led to the publication of EMCABS) and chaired the 1965 EMC Symposium Committee. Initially, Mr. Kant worked for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and then the U.S. Air Force, Rome Air Development Center. He became more involved with RFI when he moved to the Sperry Gyroscope Company in New York and then switched to RCA/GE to work on the Aegis destroyer radar system. After working on the Aegis system for 22 years, he retired. Milt was invited to the 50th Anniversary of the EMC Society in 2007 and showed up in Hawaii for the festivities.

Ralph Showers
1202 pioneers dh-showersDr. Showers was a member of the original Administrative Committee of the PGRFI and became the third chairman of the PGRFI from 1960 to 1961. He also chaired the Technical Papers Committee and initiated the Transactions of the PGRFI organization. He was a Professor at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dr. Showers also chaired the United States Committee on EMC, C63, for 35 years. He is a past chair of the International Committee on EMC, CISPR. He remains active in CISPR Technical Advisory Groups and IEC Technical Committee77 Technical Advisory Groups. Dr. Showers has won numerous awards for his EMC Standards activities, including the prestigious International Electrotechnical Commission’s Charles Proteus Steinmetz Award in 1982 “for leadership in the development of standards for measurement of radio interference”.

Anthony Zimbalatti
Mr. Zimbalatti was one of the six “drivers” of the organizational founding of the PGRFI and was present at the infamous February 27, 1957 luncheon which initiated the formation of the EMC Society. Mr. Zimbalatti was a member of the Newsletter Committee of the PGRFI in 1958. He had a very successful career at the Grumman Aircraft as an EMC engineer. He also wrote a thought-provoking column for the Newsletter called Point and Counter Point. Finally, Tony was honored at the 50th anniversary of the EMC Society in 2007 as one of the Society’s Founders.

Sam Burruano
Sam was an original member of the Administrative Committee of the PGRFI. He was chairman and co-organizer of the First RFI Symposium in 1959. In June of 1961, he formed Burruano Associates to provide military and civilian agencies with practical and theoretical consultation in the fields of interference analysis and control. He was present at the 50th Anniversary of the EMC Society in Hawaii in 2007. favicon


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This picture from the 2007 IEEE International Symposium on EMC in Hawaii shows, from left to right
James McNaul, Vince Mancino, Milton Kant (in the “Hawaiian” shirt),
Dr. Showers, Sam Burruano, and Tony Zimbalatti.

A War Story from Mr. Zimbalatti
(an incident of problem solving at Langley Air Base, edited by Dan Hoolihan from Tony Zimbalatti’s War Stories told at the 50th Anniversary of the EMC Society)

We did early-flight development testing of the Grumman-built E2A U.S. Naval Aircraft. The range of the Low-Frequency Automatic Directional Finding (LFADF) system was being limited because it was an early development aircraft. Because it had no other low frequency receiver to use for navigation, the range was restricted to less than five miles. This hampered the developmental flights for many months. It was standard practice to have, for each aircraft, an avionics flight test engineer who reported his observations; one particular flight test engineer reported the failure of the aircraft radio to attain maximum range or sensitivity and claimed it was due to electromagnetic interference (EMI). He claimed, furthermore, that the EMI people didn’t know how to solve the problem. In short and for whatever reason, he didn’t like EMI engineers; they had done something to him.

Several months after hiring onto Grumman in the late 1960s, I was asked to evaluate the problem and to develop a solution. The flight was scheduled on Christmas (bonus) Day because, in general, it was less than a half a day at work. I appeared at the flight-ready room, met the avionics engineer and the flight test engineer, and asked, “What now?”

He said, “Harness Up.” I said, “Well, show me how. And what do I do, if we have to use the parachute?” (which is part of the harness, for those who are not familiar).
He said, “You mean you haven’t been to school and been certified to fly?” I said, “I just started at Grumman a couple months ago, what do I know?”

I noticed that he had a wry smile on his face, like “It’s an EMI guy, I’m going to get him.” So, he harnessed me up and we walked to the taxi strip where the plane was waiting with the pilot and the co-pilot.

He said, “This is how you use this. If we have to ditch (that’s the technical term for getting out of the aircraft) stand on a seat, push out the plug, jump, count to ten, and you’ll clear everything. Also, we’ll be over water so you’re going to have to get rid of that harness.” I started to feel queasy.

The way the set-up is on an E2 aircraft is that you have a pilot and co-pilot, you have a left and a right engine, and then in the aft compartment you have three operators with three scopes. The capacity was such that they could monitor the whole East Coast corridor and control all the traffic at Philadelphia, New York, and Washington. We actually ran an experiment with that aircraft to show that we could do that in case the three terminals were down. That is the capability of that aircraft; the equivalent of the Boeing aircraft that did the same thing for the Air Force. The Boeing did it with maybe ten or twelve people, while the Navy did it with three.

We took off, successfully. I performed my test and was satisfied with the results that I got. Then, the pilot announced that, since we had time, he wanted to do a so-called “fish-tail experiment.” As in “fish-tailing” with a car, the aircraft swings from side-to-side. He wanted me to observe and report. I was in the rearmost seat of this 60 foot long airplane, feeling most uncomfortable. He was going to measure fish-tailing!!

Stopping the engine on the right side, or stopping the propeller and feathering it (which turns it so it doesn’t offer resistance), then replicating the procedure on the left side, causes the plane to swing from side to side. I was watching the engine and starting to feel queasy. I don’t like flying in the first place and, with my inner-ear problems, balance is a big problem for me.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to ditch. To this day, I still don’t know if I would have gone down with the plane, because I don’t think I would want to jump out. We came back and went into the debrief room. I debriefed and said that my test proved it wasn’t an EMI problem; it was an antenna problem. The flight test engineer grabbed the microphone and he said that the test proved that it was an EMC problem. We were back to zero, again!

The controversy persisted until a special flight test was made. I got a call from the chief test pilot for the E2 program. He said, “You still have the controversy?”

I said, ”Yes, but Tommy, there is really no controversy. If you fly that aircraft with a dummy rigged antenna, we can prove it.”

Now, Tommy was known for a secret. And what was his secret? In one of his maneuvers of the airplane, he dived, fired his gun, came back up into the gun, and riddled his own airplane with bullets. That was the kind of guy Tommy was!

He said, “Tony, if you tell me you want me to fly a dummy rigged antenna, what are you going to do?” I said, “I am going to move the antenna out of the fuselage (outside of the aircraft) and drop it about six inches. Then we are going to fly.”

He said, “It will be done in two days, The flight will happen Saturday. Want to come in and watch it?” I said, “Of course!”

So, Saturday comes and Tommy took off. We were watching him. He went out to five miles. He went out to ten miles. He continued flying and, finally, we got a message.

He says, “I am at a hundred and ten miles.” I’m going, “Tommy we’ve got the flight restriction.”

He said “Don’t tell me, that’s my business to fly.” I said, “Sorry.”

So he went out one-hundred and ten miles, which was well beyond the range that we needed to do our developmental flight testing. He came back and landed. You have to understand that at the Grumman Company at this time, the founders were there. The original aircraft people, including Leroy Grumman, were still alive. It was an engineering company. It was a company that had more engineers per worker than any other company in the US. In fact, its name was the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company.

So Tommy says, “If anybody tries to take that antenna off, I will exercise my prerogative.”

Everybody knew what that meant. He had a direct line to call the CEO. So the flight test continued with a jury rigged antenna.

Meanwhile, the antenna group and the avionics engineers were still arguing that it was not an antenna problem. Their basis was that I had moved the antenna away from the interference source by bringing it outside the airplane. I said, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, I developed a test plan for the E2 for the EMC engineers that were assigned to the E2 because I was hired to work on another airplane. My section chief told me to write the plan.

I said, “I want you to collect the data to prove that it is an antenna problem”.

They performed their test, basically dropping the antenna one inch at a time. I had math models to predict what would happen on the back of an envelope. You have an aperture; a small aperture and a large surface. Rensselaer published some aperture

results and I used their quasi-static equations, because we were dealing with 95KC to 1 MC – not a big deal. They came back with the results, and still they insisted that it was the antenna group. In the hierarchy, the antenna group for some reason is considered in high esteem. The reason, I think, is because everyone looks at it as a mysterious device. But, it’s nothing but a hunk of wire that gets tuned.

Meanwhile, nobody wanted to do anything. So, I grabbed the antenna installation manual that Collins had written. It said that the average aperture (I can’t remember the exact
dimension) was two foot square; the actual aperture was less than that, maybe one foot square. I looked to the antenna engineer and I said, “How did this happen?”

He said, “You know … structures. We are always concerned about cutting a big wall at that location on the aircraft.” I said, “Yeah. I can understand that. So what did you do?”

He said, “I called Collins and told him about the problem.” Collins said: “’Oh yeah, you could reduce the size of the aperture. “

I said, “You have this documented, of course. And did you ask him for the mathematics to justify this decision?” I knew the answer by his reaction. I said, “You’ve done a very poor thing.” I showed him the results because my boss had seen them.

He said, “I certainly endorse it. I don’t want to be in an argument with this section chief.”

I said, “He doesn’t have to know.”

So, to this day, that antenna sits two inches below the fuselage with the radar, forty or fifty years later. favicon

A War Story from Mr. Burruano

(an incident, edited by Dan Hoolihan from Sam Burruano’s War Stories told at the 50th Anniversary of the EMC Society)

What I want to do is tell you a little bit about the early days, some of my war stories.

The technical stuff is great, but there are a lot of work stories to show you that EMC can be a fun job. My first run-in with Air Force One was in the 1950s. Eisenhower was president and Vice-President Nixon was on his way to Russia for the infamous Kitchen Debate. As Air Force One was flying over Poland, the navigation was via triangulation and something was jamming the entire navigation system. They couldn’t hear any of the transmissions from the radio stations and required special help from the Russians to get into Russia. When the plane came back from Russia, they called and said: “We want to borrow Sam for three nights.” They thought it was going to take that long to find out what the problem was. So, I went over to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. They must have had about 15 or 20 guys out there making microscopic measurements on the body of the airplane. I went up to the Colonel who was running the thing and said, “Look, send these guys home. I’ll solve the problem for you.” You pray a lot when you do this, because that’s gutsy. So, I sat down and started to do the logical things. What could be causing this? Is it on the airplane? What could it be? Could it be broadband or continuous wave?

Could it be the electronic system or the electrical system? I listed all the parts of the electric system (like 449, which I was instrumental in doing something about during the time I was working on Project Llamas … but that’s another story). There was no sense in listing all of the electronics sub-systems; I turned all of those on at once and it didn’t do a thing to the navigational system. So, I started to go through the electrical sub-systems one by one. All of a sudden, BZZZZ!! Boy, I had found it. I looked down to see what it was, and it was the fluorescent lights.

So it was a very simple solution. I got some non-fluorescent lamps and installed one interference filter, and the interference was gone. They thought I was a real hero. (I know, I know …
a hero is really an Italian sandwich!) favicon


author_hoolian-dan Daniel D. Hoolihan
is the Founder and Principal of Hoolihan EMC Consulting. He is a Past-President of the EMC Society of the IEEE and is presently serving on the Board of Directors. He is presently an assessor for the NIST NVLAP EMC and Telecom Lab Accreditation program. Also, he is the Vice-Chair of the ANSI ASC C63® committee on EMC.



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