Photo of John Roy Whinnery

John Roy Whinnery

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his research contributions to microwaves, lasers, and quantum electronics; for his excellence as a teacher and author; and for his extensive services to government and professional organizations.

At the age of 10, John Roy Whinnery moved with his family to Modesto, California where his father farmed and also took an avid interest in electrical and mechanical systems. Whinnery’s father bought and operated a light plant to generate electricity for a small town in Colorado, and that played an influential part in Whinnery’s interest in electrical engineering.

After receiving a doctorate, Whinnery focused his research in the emerging field of lasers and laser applications in communications. He and his students at UC Berkeley produced advances in ultrashort optical pulses, used to study fast processes in materials and chemical reactions. Whinnery was recognized as one of the country’s top experts on the fundamentals of quantum electronics.

Whinnery is widely credited with helping to bring the study of applied electromagnetic theory to a broader audience with his 1944 textbook on communications electronics. His textbook made electromagnetic theory understandable and accessible, and modern editions of it are still used in college courses today.

By Jen Santisi