Robert H. Tanner – Biography

IEEE Canadian Review, September 1989

Photo of Robert H. Tanner

TANNER, Robert H. 1915–2002.

Robert Tanner, Former Director of IEEE Canada, has recently received the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from Concordia University. Educated at Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England, he began his career with the British Broadcasting Corporation as a pioneer in the world’s first high definition television station developing audio techniques and researching the acoustics of studios and concert halls.

In 1947, he emigrated to Canada and commenced an outstanding engineering career with Northern Electric, Bell-Northern Research, and subsequently the Canadian Department of Communications. He contributed to Canadian engineering in many fields, managing the development of products and systems from audio equipment to microwave relay stations. His skill as an engineer and a manager was recognized by his appointment in 1973 as Director of Industrial Research of the Canadian Department of Communications.

As a consultant, he was responsible for the acoustical design of many important buildings, including the Royal Canadian Mint and the Stratford Festival Theatre in Ontario. He dedicated himself to this work after leaving the Department of Communications in 1975, and has since carried out the acoustical design of many buildings, including an Air Force Academy for Saudi Arabia, and the new Canadian Embassy in Washington.

In his remarkable career, Mr. Tanner has received many awards for his work. He has been honoured with IEEE Canada’s McNaughton Gold Medal, IEEE’s Haraden Pratt Award and the Robert H. Tanner Lecture Series in Toronto. Four professional societies have conferred their highest honour on him: he is Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, Fellow of IEEE, Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, and Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (of Great Britain). He is also a Member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineers.

Mr. Tanner has expressed his dedication to his profession not only in his outstanding work in engineering, but also in his contribution to the advancement of science and engineering. He has been for many years active in the IEEE. He held the office of Director of the Canadian Region (Region 7), Secretary, Executive Vice-President, and in 1972, President, becoming the first and only member of the Canadian engineering Profession so far to hold this high office. In fact, he is the only non-American ever to have been elected to this position. To this day, he continues to be active in many of the Institute’s committees.

From the IEEE Canadian Review, September 1989.

Globe and Mail, November 2002

TANNER, Robert H. 1915–2002.

With his wife of 62 years by his side, Robert Tanner quietly passed away on November 2, 2002 in Naples, Florida. Left to mourn are his beloved wife, Joan; his sons and daughter Chris, Rosemary (Raymond Langston), Peter (Susan), and David (Natalie); and his grandchildren Emily Wanechko and Laura, Heather, and Michael Tanner.

Following service in the Royal Signals during WWII, Robert emigrated to Canada with his young family in 1947. He joined Northern Electric in Belleville, Ontario. He moved to Ottawa in 1960 where he helped found Northern Electric’s research and development division, Bell Northern Research. An acomplished accoustical engineer, with the acoustic design of many churches and theatres to his credit, Robert was especially proud of his work on the Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario; the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto, and the Naples Philharmonic Hall.

He was active for many years in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), serving as President in 1972. The IEEE awarded him the McNaughton Gold Medal, the Haraden Pratt Award for Service, and the United States Activities Award for Engineering Professionalism. In 1989, Concordia University in Montreal bestowed on him an Honorary LL.D. for his services to engineering. Robert and Joan moved to Naples, Florida in 1975.

Private arrangements have been made. Donations in Robert’s name to The Hospice of Naples, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane, Naples, Florida 34105 would be greatly appreciated. Condolences may be sent to Joan at 1001 Arbor Lake Drive, Naples, Florida, 34110.

From the Globe and Mail, Wednesday, November 6, 2002 – Print Edition.

The Institute, March 2003


Robert Tanner, First Canadian IEEE President

I met Bob Tanner personally on perhaps only half a dozen occasions but had several long chats with this gentleman. Both in my initial impressions of him and in coming to learn about IEEE’s history and development, I found my fellow Canadian to be a very kind, caring, able, and devoted volunteer. He did a tremendous amount of work to help the IEEE become much more international and give non-U.S. Regions more independence and self-governance. In 1973, when he was the first Canadian IEEE President, the IEEE was only just beginning to allow Regions to be self-governing.

I remember attending my first Region 7 (Canada) meeting which was held and run by IEEE staff in New York City at the United Engineering Center in New York City — so much for making local arrangements! His involvement as chair of the first IEEE long range planning committee, the first after the merger of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and the Institute of Radio Engineers that became the IEEE, and the differences of opinion and practice contained therein, certainly set the stage for the IEEE’s forward-thinking evolution.

When Bob became IEEE President, I was just beginning my involvement in Region 7 activities and since those early days, he has inspired me to become a pro-active IEEE volunteer in both my Region and worldwide.

As IEEE members, we continue to enjoy the benefit of his wisdom and guidance over his distinguished volunteer career. It was a real pleasure to have known one of IEEE’s brightest stars.

By Robert T.H. Alden
2002 Haraden Pratt Award recipient

From The Institute, March 2003 – Print Edition

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