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Morris Brodwin, Electromagnetics Pioneer, Passes Away

Brodwin made important contributions to microwave engineering


Morris Brodwin

Morris Brodwin, emeritus professor of electrical engineering and computer science, passed away Nov. 4 at age 90. He will be remembered as an encouraging mentor, valued colleague, and friend.

A member of Northwestern’s faculty from 1958 to 1994, Brodwin was an expert in microwave engineering and electromagnetics. He made important contributions to the theory of microwave mixers and undertook pioneering work on planar microwave circuits on ferrite substrates. Brodwin founded Northwestern’s Microwave Characterization Laboratory, which was active from the 1970s until his retirement.

Much of Brodwin’s research was motivated by his time in World War II, when the US Army deployed him to develop radar technology. Brodwin was struck by the case histories of soldiers who were blinded by cataract formation after exposure to high-power radars. After earning his PhD in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1957, he continued to study this phenomenon.

In 1972, Brodwin organized a graduate seminar on bioelectromagnetics, a research area that was then in its infancy. Brodwin asked a student in the class to develop a computational model of the interaction of microwaves with the human eye. That student was Allen Taflove, who was just beginning his long and successful career in the field. Now a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at McCormick, Taflove remembers Brodwin as an encouraging mentor who played an integral role in his education.

“I owe my career to Morris Brodwin,” he said. “It all started with his trusting me to proceed with my own research as a very young person, regardless of the very low probability nature of the topic and regardless that the topic didn’t fit in with his own research interests.”

Throughout his distinguished career, Brodwin received numerous awards and honors for both his research and teaching. He was loved and respected by his students, inspiring many to become university faculty members and industrial leaders in the field of electromagnetics and microwave engineering.

"He brought both rigor and enjoyment to his classes," said Alan Sahakian, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at McCormick. "He gave a talk for the IEEE student group about his research in microwave processing of ceramics, which he ended by demonstrating aspects of microwave cooking. The students loved it, as they did him. We will miss Morris."

Brodwin is survived by his sons Paul and David and by his granddaughter Rachel. A service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Shalom Memorial Park, 1700 W. Rand Road in Arlington Heights. Memorials may be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation,