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Chen-To Tai (1915 – 2004): In Memoriam

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Chen-To Tai, one of the most respected and influential scientists in electromagnetics and antenna theory, passed away peacefully at his home in Ann Arbor on July 30, 2004.

Professor Tai was born in 1915 in Luzhi Township on the outskirts of Soochow, China and received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Tsing-Hua University, China in 1937. He traveled to to the United States in 1943, having obtained a scholarship from Harvard University. He received his MS degree in Communication Engineering from Harvard in 1944, followed by a Doctor of Science degree in 1947. He continued at the Cruft Laboratory as a research fellow until 1949 when he accepted a research physicist position at the Stanford Research Institute in Palo Alto.

In 1954 he was appointed Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Ohio State University. Two years later, he left to take a faculty position at the Technical Institute of Aeronautics in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, where he became proficient in Portuguese. He returned to OSU in 1961 and then, in 1964, joined the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, as Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, becoming a member of the Radiation Laboratory. Apart from the period 1967-1969 when he took a reduced appointment to work part time for KMS Industries, he remained at Michigan for the rest of his career. He was made Emeritus Professor in 1986. Following his formal retirement, he continued as an active member of the Radiation Laboratory and the years immediately following his retirement continued to be very productive ones technically.

Throughout his career, Professor Tai received many honors and awards. He was elected Fellow of the IEEE in 1962, and received the AP-S Distinguished Achievement Award in 1986 and the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1985 when he was made a Life Fellow of the IEEE. He also received outstanding faculty and teaching awards from the Ohio State University and the University of Michigan and was awarded honorary professorships by Shanghai Normal University, Chongdu Institute of Radio Engineering and Nanjing Institute of Post and Communication in 1980, 1986, and 1987 respectively. He was appointed a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1987 and received the IEEE Heinrich Hertz Medal in 1998.

Professor Tai is recognized throughout the world for his research on antennas and electromagnetics in general. He was a dedicated teacher known for the clarity of his lectures and was both loved and respected by his students and colleagues. In addition to his technical work, he had a variety of other interests and hobbies including tennis, Chinese literature, painting, calligraphy, and music (both Chinese and classical western). In 2000, to honor his love for teaching and education, his family and friends created the annual IEEE AP-S Chen-To Tai Distinguished Educator Award. Professor Tai is survived by his wife, Ming, and by five children and ten grandchildren.

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers its condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Chen-To Tai and expresses its gratitude for his many years of dedication and service to his students, colleagues and the University of Michigan. His many exceptional contributions will leave a lasting legacy.


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