Welcome from the DEIS President
By Simon Rowland, President
As I write, we in Britain are still reflecting on the recent Olympic Games and on-going Paralympics in London. London was awarded the games in large part because of the legacy promised. The legacy is thought of as regeneration of a poor part of East London (my birth place coincidently), meaning new jobs and infrastructure, and also enthusing a new generation to get into sport and physical activity. Moreover, there has been an upsurge in positive feeling in Britain too as a result of the games. Not just pride because of its success, but a genuine feeling of unity, confidence and international friendship. The Paralympics have just started and, for the first time, these have been virtually sold-out with 2.5 million tickets having been sold, and engagement and access are big themes now. Of course, the decision to theme the Paralympic opening ceremony around science and innovation was also welcomed by the engineering societies.
I am reflecting on this because of the inclusivity that these events focus on: strangers and friends coming together to share in the achievements of others. Our own Society’s equivalents to sports events are our conferences, and I find myself remembering one man, John Tanaka, who went the extra mile to make me feel a part of the community when I was new to the field.
Sadly, John Tanaka passed away recently (April 2012: the June/July edition of this Magazine carried his obituary). John was one of the dielectric community’s most esteemed members and provided great leadership. He left behind many legacies: for example, in addition to his technical work he did a huge amount of voluntary work for our community, including being President of our Society from 1985-6, helping create this Magazine and editing it for ten years up to 2001.
John’s passing has led me to reflect on what he meant to me personally and to so many others. I first met John at the same time as I met another of our statesmen, Eric Foster, when I was a fresh graduate at one of our international conferences twenty five years ago. I distinctly remember meeting them together, because of the warmth of the welcome they gave me. John was happy to give his time to newcomers and fresh graduates like me, and was clearly a natural educator. He engaged with no sense of inflated ego as a barrier to our relationship. After a few years I left the dielectrics community to work in other fields, but when I came back 10 years later John welcomed me at a conference like a long-lost friend, once again engaging with the easy openness I admire so much.
Just like those Olympians, we are all striving to do our best (in our cases in our various activities of engineering, research, and teaching), and in many ways we compete with each other. But we in the DEIS have a very special feature. Not only are we very multidisciplinary; embracing electrical engineers, physicists, chemists, material scientists, and others, which provides ample opportunities for collaboration, but we have uniquely friendly conferences too. We regularly gather as people from all parts of the globe and share of our best endeavours. It is in this context that we develop our relationships and the culture of our Society.
From my perspective then, the huge debt we owe to John Tanaka, beyond his work and personal friendship, is his contribution to the culture of our organisation. And I would encourage all our members at any meeting to engage openly and warmly with those you do not know or recognise and draw them into the community, as John did so readily over his illustrious career.
The Dielectrics and Electric Insulation Society is presently thinking of an appropriate way to formally remember John’s involvement and legacy on an on-going basis. We will communicate how that will be done by the beginning of the New Year. However, I have no doubt that the most positive way we can all honour his memory is to continue to emulate his engagement with and warmth towards new and younger members of our community, continuing our own tradition of inclusivity and friendliness.