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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             GEORGES A.DESCHAMPS                                       67
                        GEORGES A.DESCHAMPS
                OUR FRIEND GEORGES A.DESCHAMPS passed away on June 20,
            1998, at the age of eighty-six after a long illness.
                Deschamps was born in Vendome, France, on October 18, 1911, and studied
            mathematics at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, one of the famous French
            “grandes écoles.” Always fascinated by theoretical physics, he received advanced
            degrees in mathematics and physics from the Sorbonne, also in Paris. Then he
            served in the French Army as a lieutenant before coming to the United States in
            1937 to spend a year at Princeton University. After that he taught mathematics
            and physics for about ten years at the Lycée Français de New York.
                In 1947 Deschamps gave up teaching and became a project engineer with
            the Federal Telecommunication Laboratories, a division of International
            Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), where, among his many responsibilities, he
            worked on direction finding and radio navigation systems. It was at ITT that
            Deschamps invented a special-purpose quaternion computer for the solution of
            problems in inertial navigation. Geometric techniques always played a central
            role in his research. For example, he presented a unified description of a variety
            of transmission line, waveguide junction, and polarization problems in terms of a
            simple geometrical model. Based on this model, he developed graphical solution
            methods that he implemented in his “hyperbolic protractor.” In many of his
            studies, Georges was a true fore
             GEORGES A.DESCHAMPS                                       68
             runner. He developed a graphical representation of dispersion surfaces of wave
             propagation in magnetoplasmas and computed Fourier transforms by the fast
             Fourier transform method long before their “official appearance.” He also
            suggested the early form of microstrip antennas before they become popular.
                In 1958 Deschamps joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
            as a professor of electrical engineering and director of the Antenna Laboratory.
            He discovered that a Gaussian beam can be represented by the radiation field from a
            point source located in a “complex” space. His discovery greatly simplifies many
            wave propagation problems of Gaussian beams. He worked the classical problem
            of diffraction by metal wedge, and developed a ray theory that is uniformly valid
            throughout transition regions near shadow boundaries.
                From an engineering viewpoint, the biggest contribution Deschamps made is
            his formulation of the “divergence factor” of a ray pencil. The cross section of a
            ray pencil diverges or contracts as it is reflected from a material interface. Using
            his profound knowledge in geometry, Deschamps developed a matrix method for
            computing the divergence factor in an original and elegant manner. His method is
            being universally adopted in today’s radar community for solving problems
            ranging from designing “stealth” airplanes to tracing signals from cellular
                After his retirement in 1982, Deschamps spent many of his working hours on
            his favorite subject, differential forms. He predicted that in the future, Maxwell’s
            equations would be taught by using differential forms instead of the present
            vector analysis. Judging by Deschamps record and his wisdom, his prediction
            may very well come true. Deschamps was a life fellow of the Institute of
            Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He was elected to the National
            Academy of Engineering in 1978 with a citation that recognized his
            “contributions to electromagnetic scattering, microwave engineering, and laser
            beam propagation.” In 1984 he received the IEEE Centennial Medal, and in
            1987, the Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Achievement Award.
            He was an early participant and an active member of the International Scientific
            Radio Union.
             GEORGES A.DESCHAMPS                                       69
                Deschamps was a true scholar and an inspiring teacher. He was a man of
            great intellect, deeply insightful about electromagnetic theory, much sought after
            as a consultant by students and coworkers to whom he gave generously of his
            wisdom and expertise. Reserved, even shy, he was regarded with great affection
            by his many friends and colleagues. He indulged in his scientific endeavor and
            shared his knowledge, particularly his unique geometrical interpretation of
            electromagnetics, with colleagues even long after his retirement.
                His wife, Bunty, his son, Francois, two daughters, Georgianne Gregg and
            Christiane, and five grandchildren survive him.
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