Obituary - Ronald C. Petersen

Petersen passed away on 9 July at the age of 81

It is with great sadness that the IEC learned of the passing of Ron Petersen, former Chair of IEC TC 106 and a valuable member of the IEC community, at the age of 81.

Ron Petersen with Frank Kitzantides
Ron Petersen (left) receiving the Thomas A. Edison Award from former IEC Vice-President and SMB Chair Frank Kitzantides...

Ron Petersen received his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering (BSEE) and Master of Science in Electrophysics (MSEP) degrees from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He joined the Bell Labs Solid-State Device Development Laboratory in 1960 where he was involved with the development of low-noise travelling-wave maser amplifiers, broadband solid state amplifiers, and silicon diode array camera tubes. In 1970, he joined the Bell Labs* Environmental Health and Safety Center and, until his retirement in 2001, managed the Bell Labs Wireless and Optical Technologies Safety Department (WOTS), which served as the AT&T* and Lucent Technologies Inc.* resource for all non-ionizing radiation safety issues and related standards. 

Ron Petersen was the founder and first Chair of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 106: Methods for the assessment of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields associated with human exposure, a committee he chaired for more than 10 years. 

Under his chairmanship, TC 106 published its first 10 International Standards, including IEC 62209-1, Measurement procedure for the assessment of specific absorption rate of human exposure to radio frequency fields from hand-held and body-mounted wireless communication devices - Part 1: Devices used next to the ear (Frequency range of 300 MHz to 6 GHz) in 2005 – the second edition was published in 2016 – which was the first globally accepted standardized method for measuring specific absorption rates (SAR) for radio frequency (RF) energy emitted by mobile phones and absorbed by the human body. 

Ron Petersen also served on many international and US standards development committees throughout his career, notably at IEEE. 

At the forefront of radio frequency (RF) safety R&D and electromagnetic field (EMF) safety since the 1970s, when he joined several IEEE committees, his experience and expertise were recognized by all who worked with him over the years. So much so that he was known to his peers as “the Czar of Electromagnetic Energy”. 

Ron Petersen received a number of prestigious awards including the IEC Thomas A. Edison Award in 2010. He was an IEEE Life Fellow and a Fellow of the Laser Institute of America. 

Ron Petersen will be fondly remembered by all those who had the privilege to know him. IEC conveys its deepest sympathies to his family and colleagues.

* Bell Labs is now Nokia Bell Labs. Lucent Technologies, Inc. was an American multinational telecommunications equipment company established in September 1996, through the divestiture of the former AT&T Technologies business unit of AT&T Corporation, which included Western Electric and Bell Labs. Lucent was merged with Alcatel SA of France in December 2006, forming Alcatel-Lucent, which in turn was absorbed by Nokia in January 2016.