Department History

In 1909 the Department of Electrical Engineering was formed when the School of Practical Science entered the University of Toronto as the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Until the early 1960s, it was one of only two such departments in Ontario, the other department being at Queen’s University in Kingston.

U of T Engineering Classroom - circa 1909 U of T Electrical Engineering lab - circa 1909

In the early days the department offered a very practical undergraduate curriculum, similar to those of the pre-existing land grant agricultural and mechanical colleges in the United States. No model was to be found in the British education system, where engineering was not considered to be a discipline suitable for academic study. The department has developed along North American lines which are quite distinct from those of Britain and western Europe.

The applied science component of the department’s program began to develop, albeit slowly, in the early 1920s. The degree of Master of Applied Science was instituted in 1923, only one year after the School of Graduate Studies was established at the University. Graduate study was pursued intermittently and the first Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering was awarded in 1951.

Professor Gordon F. Tracy did much to guide the early development of the department towards its present form. Tracey was a distinguished academic who had had a successful career in the United States. He surrounded himself with brilliant young people with strong research interests. Chief among them were Professors G. Sinclair (one of Canada’s most distinguished engineers), J.M. Ham (President of the University, 1978-83) and G.R. Slemon (Dean of the Faculty, 1979-86). With their help, Tracy used the tenor of post-Sputnik times to recruit a larger group of like-minded people (both engineers and applied scientists).

The research groups within the department also stem from historical roots. The groups strongly based in classical electromagnetic theory came first — power engineering and “radio” (classical electromagnetic wave) engineering. Control engineering, the first of the so-called systems disciplines, followed in the 1950s. Communications engineering followed shortly after, as did the modern discipline of electronic device and circuit engineering, based on solid-state phenomena. Computer engineering (begun here in about 1965) has grown to include over half of undergraduate students and to have a degree bearing its own name. The electrical and computer undergraduate programs share a common first two years of study. Biomedical engineering has been pursued with the Faculty of Medicine and other engineering departments since the formation of the Institute of Biomedical Electronics in 1962 (now the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering). Most recently Photonics has joined the department’s research groups.

The balance of sub-disciplines, thought to be good for current circumstances, is constantly shifting. The past willingness to interpret the discipline broadly has led to the present balance – a historical fact with an implication for the future.

In June 2000, Ted Rogers Jr. made a substantial donation in honour of his father, who was a student of the Department from 1919 to 1921. The Department is now known as The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Past Heads/Chairs of the Department

2004-2009  Jonathan Scott Rose, B.A.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph.D., P. Eng, F.I.E.E.E, F.A.C.M, F.C.A.E. – Chair
 2003-2003  Ian Fraser Blake, B.A.Sc. , M.A.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.S.C., F.I.E.E.E., P.Eng. – Acting Chair
1993-2003  Safwat George Zaky, B.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph.D., P.Eng. – Chair
1986-1993  Adel Shafeek Sedra, B.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph.D., F.I.E.E.E. – Chair
1981-1986  Harold William Smith, C.D., B.A.Sc., Sc.D., F.I.E.E.E. – Chairman
1976-1981  Kenneth Carless Smith, B.A.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph.D., Life Fellow I.E.E.E. – Chairman
1966-1976  Gordon Richard Slemon, M.A.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc. F.C.A.E., Life Fellow I.E.E.E., OC – Head and Chairman
1964-1966  James Milton Ham, B.A.Sc., S.M., Sc.D., OC, O.Ont – Head
1947-1964  Gordon Frederick Tracy, B.A.Sc., S.M. – Head
1946-1947  Arthur Russel Zimmer, B.A.Sc. – Head
1936-1946  Harold Wilberforce Price, B.A.Sc. – Head
1900-1936  Thomas Reeve Rosebrugh, M.A., F.R.S.C. – Head