1949–1951 Chair of the AIEE Committee on Large-Scale Computing Devices
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John Grist Brainerd was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 7 August 1904. During his undergraduate years he worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia “North American” newspaper. He received a B.S.E.E. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1925, and in that same year started work as an instructor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He received a. Sc.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1934, and was appointed Professor and Chairman, Division of Physical Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1942. In 1954 he became Director of the university’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering. Decades earlier, in 1928, he was partially responsible for inducing Dean Pender of the Moore School to start evening courses leading to a Master’s Degree, an innovative project for the time.
Brainerd accomplished much in his years at the University of Pennyslvania, more than tripling the professional faculty of the Moore School, from fifteen to more than fifty, and vastly increased the number of Ph.D.s awarded annually. In 1953 he organized what was probably the first graduate program in Systems Engineering. Subsequently, he organized and chaired the Workshop in Systems Engineering, held at the Moore School in 1961, attended by representatives of almost every accredited engineering school in the U.S. and Canada.
Brainerd’s professional work also went beyond campus. He was also the prime organizer of the Professional Group on Circuit Theory and served as its Chairman from 1949–1951, a group that grew to several thousand members. He was also the organizer and became a permanent member of the steering committee of the International Solid States Circuits Conference held annually in Philadelphia. Brainerd was a member of the Inter-University Committee on Biomedical Engineering out of which grew the cooperative biomedical engineering program involving the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Rochester.