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Charles Susskind


Charles Susskind

Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus


1921 – 2004


Charles Susskind died on June 15, 2004 after a brave and lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on August 19, 1921, and when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939 he escaped to England just three weeks before war broke out there. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1945 as a radar specialist and married a British Wren, Teresa Gabriel, on May 1, 1945. They emigrated to the U.S. that same year and settled in Pasadena, California where Charles attended the California Institute of Technology and was awarded a B.S. in 1948. Graduate work at Yale University followed and he received a Ph.D. in 1951.


His first job took him back to California on the faculty of Stanford University and he stayed there until 1955. While teaching, he also coauthored a book with Professor Marvin Chodorow, Fundamentals of Microwave Electronics. In 1955 he accepted a post on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Electrical Engineering and he lived very happily in Berkeley for the next 50 years. His specialty was microwaves, but over the years he became more interested in bioengineering and the history of technology. His undergraduate course on “Technology and Society” drew many hundreds of students from the arts and the sciences and is still a popular course on the Berkeley campus.


He wrote and coauthored 15 books, including Understanding Technology in 1968, which was translated into seven languages. He founded the publishing house, San Francisco Press, in 1959 and, until the year 2000, published 75 books on science, technology, history of science and technology, and music. During this time he was editor-in-chief for McGraw-Hill's Encyclopedia of Electronics.


In 1961 he received a Fulbright Scholarship and spent a sabbatical year in London, where he lectured at Imperial College. From 1964 to 1968 he was assistant dean in the College of Engineering. At the end of 1968 he received a National Science Foundation award and spent a year at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.


In the summer of 1969 he returned to his native Prague for the first time since he had left for England in 1939, and that was the first of many visits during the next 30 years. On his return to the University of California in 1969 he was invited to join the administrative staff and became coordinator and statewide administrator for all nine University of California campuses. After a five-year stint, he returned to teaching at Berkeley. In 1980 he was appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. and chaired the committee in 1985. He retired from the University in 1991 but continued to write and lecture extensively and attend international conferences all over the world. His last public lecture was in 1997 in Geneva at the International Telecommunications Conference (TELECOM), where he gave one of the keynote addresses on the history of radar.


He was a Renaissance Man who also inhabited the world of music. He played the cello and his brother, Walter Susskind, conducted the Saint Louis Symphony. He and his wife had subscribed to the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Symphony for nearly 50 years. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Teresa, daughter Pamela Pettler and son-in-law Robert Pettler of Los Angeles, son Peter Susskind of Kensington, daughter Amanda Susskind of Los Angeles, nephew Peter Susskind of San Francisco, and grandsons Andrew Susskind of Santa Cruz and Michael Pettler of Los Angeles.



Charles K. (Ned) Birdsall

Theodore Van Duzer