TV Pioneer Edwin Kurtz Inducted into Legacy of Iowa Engineering May 8

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kurtz was a pioneer in educational television in the 1930s


The University of Iowa College of Engineering will induct television pioneer Edwin B. Kurtz posthumously into its Legacy of Engineering on May 8. The Legacy of Engineering recognizes faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who made exceptional historical contributions toward advancing the college in teaching, research or service.

Kurtz, who served as professor and department chair of electrical engineering from 1929 to 1960, was a pioneer in educational television. The first public demonstration of a television broadcast developed by Kurtz and his team took place in March 1933 when television station W9XK, operated by the electrical engineering department, teamed up with radio station WSUI. Video was broadcast over W9XK, while the sound was heard over WSUI.

Dozens of programs were broadcast during the station’s first year, including some on the subject of identifying trees by their leaves and others about Girl Scout trail marking. From 1932 through 1939, a total of 389 educational programs were broadcast. The station went on to become the first visual station licensed west of the Mississippi River and the first to be equipped by a liberal arts university.

Additionally, he had already developed a prominent reputation as the author of The Lineman’s and Cableman’s Handbook, a definitive document for workers in the construction and maintenance of power lines.

Decades later and in recognition of Kurtz’s research and contributions to the power industry, the Iowa power companies established the Kurtz Lecture series at the UI College of Engineering. Each year a nationally recognized speaker presents current topics of interest related to the legacy of Kurtz.

In his letter of nomination, Milan Sonka, professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, noted: “For those of us in electrical and computer engineering, this lecture series speaks to the enduring contribution of our former colleague and chair and his historical impact upon educational television.”

The Kurtz induction brings the Legacy’s membership to 21. Additional information about the Legacy of Engineering may be found at: