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Weiss Is First Holder of Perkins Chair

Thomas F. Weiss, an expert in signal processing in the auditory system, has been selected to be the first holder of the Thomas and Gerd Perkins Professorship of Electrical Engineering.

The new professorship has been established within the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Perkins.

Professor Paul Penfield Jr., head of the department, announced the gift of the chair and the selection of the first holder.

Mr. Perkins, a 1953 graduate of the MIT electrical engineering department (now electrical engineering and computer science), earned an MBA from Harvard. He then worked as an engineer for Sperry and then joined Hewlett Packard as general manager of its computer division in 1965. In 1972 he left HP to become a venture capitalist. His firm, Kleiner Perkins of San Francisco, successfully launched several new companies. He is the only person in history to have been chairman of three companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins are both avid sailors and once crossed the Atlantic in only 11 days.

Professor Penfield said the chair was established to advance the fields of electrical engineering, with initial emphasis on areas of potential importance to human health.

The career of Professor Weiss has been "characterized by scholarly research coupled with excellent teaching," Professor Penfield said. "His style is that of careful and thorough examination of systems where the payoff will be long-term understanding."

Professor Weiss has been responsible for the development of a subject, Quantitative Physiology: Cells and Tissues, which is both part of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the first in a series of bioengineering subjects for the department's bioelectrical engineering option. One of the most active users of Project Athena for educational purposes, he won the nationwide 1990 EDUCOM/NCRIPTAL Higher Education Software Award for the best engineering software.

The new Perkins Professor was born in Prague in 1934, graduated from City College of New York in 1956 and joined the MIT faculty in 1963 after receiving the PhD here. He has been at MIT ever since. Professor Weiss also holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

A version of this article appeared in the June 3, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 33).

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