Albert van der Ziel

Albert van der Ziel
Albert van der Ziel
Zandeweer, The Netherlands
Associated organizations
Fields of study
Electron devices
IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal


Albert van der Ziel was born in Zandeweer, The Netherlands, on December 12, 1910. He studied physics at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, from 1928 to 1934 under the great Professor Fritz Zemke and received the Ph.D. degree in 1934. He joined the Physics Research Laboratory of N. V. Philips in Eindhoven, and in 1947, he joined the faculty of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, as an associate professor of physics. Since 1950, he has been on the faculty of electrical engineering as a professor at the University of Minnesota, and since 1968, he has also been serving as a graduate research professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where he spends at least one quarter per year in residence. Dr. van der Ziel's record of providing the basic understanding of the noise mechanism in various electron devices is truly outstanding and has won him worldwide recognition as the authority on noise in electron devices. At the Philips Research Laboratories, he initiated research on noise properties of vacuum tubes, when very few workers recognized the importance of the subject, and was the first person to discover and explain means for minimizing flicker noise in UHF pentodes. He was the first person to introduce the practice of understanding material and device phenomenon through a study of noise behavior, the first person to formulate the general theory of noise in bipolar junction transistors and thermal-noise-limited junction field-effect transistors. He formulated the theory of noise processes in gas discharges, studied noise processes in probes and developed a method for measuring electron temperature in plasmas through noise measurements utilizing a non-perturbing probe. He has studied noise in gas lasers, photoconductors, Josephson junctions, infrared quantum mixers, pyroelectric infrared detectors, metaloxide-metal diodes-indeed there is hardly any electron device whose noise properties have escaped his attention.

Dr. van der Ziel is equally well known for his ability to explain difficult physical concepts with great clarity and lucidity. This ability led him to write several undergraduate and graduate textbooks, some of which are considered "classics" in the field. He has devoted more than 45 years of his academic life to the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge and has published over 200 research papers. He works very closely with graduate students, sharing with them and with his colleagues the benefits of his clear insight and understanding of the fundamental phenomena in electron devices.

His long history of education and research has so broadened his horizon that he can relate previously unassociated ideas under a common framework. He has had a scholarly interest in theology, entomology and botany and has written articles and even books on such subjects as the relationship between religion and science, a model of biological evolution based on the same random statistics as the generation-recombination of electrons and holes in semiconductors, methods to improve infrared detection with ideas borrowed from entomology, antenna theory, and the classical mixing theory. He considers pursuits of these additional subjects as "hobbies," but he does collect stamps as his one real hobby.

Dr. van der Ziel was elected fellow of the IEEE in 1956 and a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1978. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Universite Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France, in 1975. He also received the Western Electric Fund Award for excellence in instruction of engineering studies from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) in 1967 and the ASEE Vincent Bendix Award in 1976.

Dr. van der Ziel and his wife Jantina resided in Minneapolis. Their son, Jan (Ph .D., Harvard), did research at Bell Labs, Murray Hill; their elder daughter, Cornelia "Kea" Burton (M.D., Columbia), was a gynecologist in San Jose; and the second daughter, Joanna Beachy (Ph . D., U.of Minn.), was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University.