Dr. Alexander E. Emanuel (left); Richard Ladroga (right)
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Tribute to Dr. Alexander Eigeles Emanuel

Feb. 6, 2023
Dr. Emanuel was a world-renowned Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

Dr. Alexander E. Emanuel, age 85, entered into eternal rest on January 24th, 2023. Dr. Emanuel was a world-renowned Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).  Dr. Emanuel was a beloved member of the WPI community, serving as a professor, mentor, advisor, colleague, friend, and father figure to a vast number of students and faculty over his illustrious 44-year tenure at that prestigious university. 

Born in 1937 in Bucharest, Romania he was fortunate to survive the Holocaust. He married the love of his life, Rodica Emanuel and they were married for 62 years until she predeceased him in 2022. Dr. Emanuel and his wife both fled the Communist regime in Romania and continued their life in Israel where they both had to restart their college education as incoming Freshmen.  Dr. Emanuel completed his education at the Technion earning his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctor of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering. During that period he served as a combat soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces and was a veteran of the Six Day War. Alexander and Rodica moved to Framingham and then later Southborough where they raised their son, David, where they pursued the American dream.

Dr. Emanuel began his work on power system harmonics in 1965, as industries began to adopt solid-state devices for controlling electric motors. He showed how solid-state devices distorted the normally smooth waveform of alternating current, introducing harmonics that can cause catastrophic failures of motors, capacitors, and cables, while also damaging electronics, including televisions, computers, and phone systems.   Before joining the WPI faculty, he worked as a senior research and development engineer at High Voltage Power Corp. in Westborough, Mass.

Dr. Emanuel published some of the earliest studies demonstrating the danger of harmonics (he is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles overall) and worked diligently to inform the electric power industry of this emerging challenge. In 1984 he founded the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Conference on Harmonics in Power Systems, which was held on the WPI campus. Over the years the bi-annual conference has grown considerably as its scope has widened to encompass all areas of power quality.

Dr. Emanuel's research earned him a number of honors and accolades over the years.  One of the most prestigious was the John Mungenast International Power Quality Award, presented to him in 1999 by E Source, an energy information service company, and Power Quality Assurance magazine. In announcing the award, Bill Howe of E Source called Dr. Emanuel "a pillar of accomplishment and conscience for the PQ World."

Dr.  Emanuel has also received the Power Systems Instrumentation and Measurement Award, presented by the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society, and the R. H. Lee Award from the IEEE Industry Applications Society.  He also received the IEEE Power and Energy Society Technical Committee Working Group Recognition Award in honor of his work as chair of the Working Group on Non-Sinusoidal Situations of the Power Systems Instrumentation and Measurements Committee. He is a Life Fellow of IEEE, a distinction bestowed on just one tenth of one percent of members, and he is the author of Power Definitions and the Physical Mechanism of Power Flow (Wiley, 2010), which was recently published in Mandarin by the China Electric Power Press.

In June of 2015, Dr. Emanuel was elected an honorary member of the Academy of Technical Sciences of Romania. On October 20 of the same year he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, the largest technical university in Romania. Both honors recognize Dr. Emanuel for his lengthy career in electric power research and education, and specifically for his pioneering work in the area of power quality and power system harmonics.  His work in power quality and harmonics made Dr. Emanuel a world-wide figure.

At WPI, Dr. Emanuel was known as a devoted, passionate, and distinguished educator. He is the only faculty member to have received WPI’s Board of Trustees’ awards for outstanding academic advising, outstanding research and creative scholarship, and outstanding teaching. He has also won his department’s outstanding teaching award several times. In 2008, he received the Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Price (an honor he shared that year with David Adams in Biology and Biotechnology); the award honors faculty members for excellence in all relevant areas of faculty performance. He held the George Ira Alden Professorship in Engineering from 1988 to 1999 and the Weston Hadden Professorship in Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1996 to 1999.

Alex Emanuel was a humble, wise, and excellent friend and father. He leaves behind his son, Dr. David (Shelly) Emanuel and his beloved granddaughters, Emily and Jessica, all of Framingham.  He also leaves behind a sincerely grateful body of students and faculty whose lives were made better by knowing him. 

-Richard Ladroga

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