The Johns Hopkins Gazette: August 20, 2001
August 20, 2001
VOL. 30, NO. 42


William H. Huggins, Longtime Electrical Engineering Professor, Dies at 82

By Phil Sneiderman
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

William H. Huggins, a professor emeritus who taught electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins for three decades and encouraged the early use of computers for research and education, died Aug. 11 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was 82.

William Huggins, in an undated photo, at the wooden clavichord he kept in his office.

Huggins, a Hopkins faculty member from 1954 through 1984, was a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering. His early research focused on electrical circuit theory and the theory of signals and systems. Colleagues say that Huggins encouraged Hopkins administrators to acquire the university's first computer 40 years ago, and during the 1960s, he became a strong advocate for the use of these machines as teaching tools.

"He was very much ahead of the curve," said Doris Entwisle, a professor emerita in the Department of Sociology. "He knew that personal computing would be a big thing. He foresaw that development."

Entwisle, who collaborated with Huggins on three engineering books, said Huggins spent much of a sabbatical year in the mid-1960s creating an early computer-generated movie that lasted just 32 seconds.

"Bill was such a bright sort of guy, bubbling with new thoughts," recalled Wilson J. Rugh, a professor in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering. "He was great as a mentor and adviser, working with students one-on-one. He developed a huge network of former students and maintained e-mail contact with them for decades."

Rugh added, "He was a faculty member in the old style, devoted to the institution completely. It was his life, really."

Huggins, a native of Rupert, Idaho, received his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1941 and 1942. In 1944 he joined the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. He received a doctorate from MIT in 1953 after preparing an dissertation in which he used electrical engineering theories to explain the human hearing process.

In addition to his engineering skills, Huggins was an accomplished musician who kept a grand piano in his apartment and a small wooden clavichord in his office on campus.

Huggins continued to live near the Home-wood campus after he retired, but in recent years, as his health declined, he relocated to Idaho to live close to family members.

Before his death, he established the William H. Huggins Endowment for Electrical and Computer Engineering within the Whiting School of Engineering. The fund was set up to recognize outstanding students and teachers and to support research efforts.

Family members suggested that contributions in memory of Huggins be made to this fund. Such gifts may be sent to the Office of Development, Whiting School of Engineering, 126 New Engineering Building, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Information on the fund can be obtained by calling the Office of Development at 410-516-8723.