National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             J.LEWIS BLACKBURN                                         25
                           J.LEWIS BLACKBURN
                                BY WALTER A.ELMORE
                J.LEWIS BLACKBURN, born in Kansas City on October 2, 1913, rose to
            dominance in a field of engineering that has nurtured many prominent leaders in
            the electric utility industry. He died on February 23, 1997. Lew treasured his
            roots in Missouri and never hesitated to cheerfully flaunt his “Show-Me”
            attitude. He received his electrical engineering degree at the University of
            Illinois, where he graduated with a B.S. degree. He started his professional career
            with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1936 through the encouragement
            of one of the giants of the industry, W.A.Lewis, who had been understandably
            impressed by this brilliant young engineer at Illinois. His progress at the
            beginning was rather slow because of a speech impediment. Nothing could have
            driven him more unceasingly than this shortcoming. He was possessed with the
            desire to excel in this area where he seemed so unlikely to dominate. He
            succeeded beyond all expectations. Though still possessing a slight impediment,
            he went on to become one of the most respected and warmly received engineering
            lecturers of his time and taught tens of thousands of relaying specialists in their
                In 1952 Lew was made engineering supervisor in the Relay and Instrument
            Division of Westinghouse at Newark, New Jersey, and in 1955 he became
            engineering section manager of all high-speed relaying. His responsibilities
            included the develop
             J.LEWIS BLACKBURN                                         26
             ment of devices for transmission line protection capable of identifying the
             location of a short circuit and opening a giant circuit breaker in 1/60th of a
             second. The success of this group of devices has not been surpassed by any
             modern-day apparatus, even though we have all of the power of the
             microprocessor and its associated technology at our disposal.
                From 1969 through 1978, Lew served as consulting engineer for the Relay-
             Instrument Division. In 1976 Lew and his staff developed an unrivaled textbook
             entitled Applied Protective Relaying, the dedication of which speaks volumes
             about his contribution to it. It states, “This book is dedicated to J.Lewis
             Blackburn, without whose enthusiasm and persistence, it could not have been
             written. Though the names of other authors appear on some chapters, none exist
             without his imprint. His long-term contribution to protective relaying goes far
             beyond this book, as any of his thousands of students, colleagues, and friends all
             over the world will attest.”
                His interest in the training and development of recent graduates went far
             beyond his promotion of and extensive involvement in the Westinghouse
             Protective Relaying Schools. He was also, at times during his career, deeply
             involved in university-promoted night schools. In addition to the obvious courses
             on relaying, he also regularly taught a course on symmetrical components and
             systems analysis at Brooklyn Polytech, Stevens University, and Newark College
             of Engineering.
                In 1978 he received the Fellow Award from the Institute of Electrical and
             Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Also, in that year, he received the Distinguished
             Service Award from the Power System Relaying Committee of the Power
             Engineering Society of the IEEE. The Outstanding Teaching Award was extended
             to Lew by the Education Activities Board of IEEE in 1980. Also in 1980 he
             received the high honor of the Westinghouse Order of Merit and the Lewis
             Blackburn Room was dedicated in his name at the Coral Springs plant. He
             received the Centennial Medal from the IEEE in 1984 for his long-term
             contributions to the industry.
                Lew Blackburn was active in the Power System Relaying Committee of
             Power Engineering Society/IEEE. He served ten years
             J.LEWIS BLACKBURN                                         27
             as secretary of that body, then two years as vice-chairman, and, beginning in
             1970, two years as chairman. With this exceptional record of service, he left a
             prominent mark on this committee.
                During his very productive years at Westinghouse, Lew organized a series
             of lectures with members of his staff and presented them throughout the world.
             His students included hundreds of people from Brazil, the Far East, Venezuela,
             Canada, and Europe. His and his associates’ notes for these schools formed the
             nucleus of what ultimately became the book Applied ProtectiveRelaying and its
             successor, Protective Relaying Theory and Applications, which are accepted
            internationally as premier texts on the subject that he held so dear to his heart.
                Another area into which Lew’s enthusiasm took him was stamp collecting.
            To say that Lew was a stamp collector would be much like suggesting that
            Mozart wrote songs. Lew was a philatelist of the highest order. He was secretary
            of the Chinese Stamp Society and simultaneously president of the Polar
            Philatelists. His stamp collection was breathtaking!
                Following his retirement, he wrote two more texts that have become
            classroom classics. The first in 1987 was simply titled Protective Relaying. It was
            complete with a set of problems that any professor would be proud to present to
            his students. The second in 1993 was another fundamental text entitled
            Symmetrical Components for Power Systems Engineering, which covered
            electrical concepts and problem solutions, not only relating specifically to the
            application of relays, but this time to the entire power system. He was encouraged
            to write more books, because of the clarity and simplicity he brought to complex
            subjects, but time did not permit. Lew left three devoted daughters and his
            beloved wife, Peggy, who followed him in death shortly after his passing.
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