Norbert L. Kusters


Norbert L. Kusters
Norbert L. Kusters
Berigen, Belgium
Associated organizations
National Research Council, Ottawa
Fields of study
IEEE Morris E. Leeds Award


Norbert Leo Kusters, Nor to his many friends, was born in Berigen, Belgium, on April 6, 1913. He received the B.Sc. degree from the University of Leuven, Belgium, in mechanical engineering in 1937 and in electrical engineering in 1938. Pursuing this dual course at MIT he received the M.Sc. (1939) in mechanical arts. While working towards a Ph.D. (electrical) and while on MIT's staff as an instructor in electrical engineering, he was called up by the Belgian Army. National Research Council (Ottawa) requested his services for work in its laboratories and accordingly Nor joined NRC in May 1941, beginning a long and successful career. Since 1946 he has been Head of the Electrical Section in the Division of Radio and Electrical Engineering.

Nor's interest in two branches of engineering has led to contributions to both fields. For example a pneumatic sorter for paper forms (1952); a detector of flaws in high grade paper sheets (1957) is used industrially for inspection and quality control and an electro-magnetic coin selector (1966) was a determining factor in government's decision (1967) to adopt all nickel coinage in Canada.

A humanitarian regard for safety led Nor to investigate the hazards of accidental grounding in hospital operating theaters (1958). Suitable detectors were produced (1961 and 1962) well ahead of general recognition of their needs, although they are in common use today.

Best known are his contributions to a whole new class of instruments arising from the current comparator he and W.J.M. Moore described in 1961. Through modifications , the ac comparator (1961), the de comparator bridge (1963), and the de comparator potentiometer (1968) have established a new system for high precision. The comparator has been adapted for resistance measurements (1965) and for resistance thermometry (1970), the former yielding increased range by five orders of magnitude, with 10 to 100-fold increase in accuracy. The latter may provide additional information on the freezing process in metals.

Instruments of the comparator family are in use in the national laboratories of 21 countries and of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Quite simply , Nor has influenced the thinking on the use of all magnetic core devices.

As an innovator, careful analyst and team leader Nor has been the principal person responsible for the ideas which have resulted in a steady stream of papers, patents, and instruments from the Electrical Engineering Division of NRC and he enjoys the enthusiastic support of his group. Kusters' great energy has allowed him time to be a member of a number of important technical committees and, in addition, visiting workers in his laboratory have found him a painstaking teacher. As an inspiration and source of new ideas it would be difficult to find many his equal. His approach to any problem is usually started with his reflecting, "There must be a better way." His staff concur with the writer that "he sails a happy ship"; certainly one that has brought us a rich cargo of results.

Norbert Kuster, a Fellow of the IEEE, was a member of the Union des Ingenieurs de Lovain and of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. He has published 34 papers and holds 18 patents.

Nor was married and has a large and happy family. His hobbies include swimming, sailing and cottage life . He has proved an excellent host to his colleagues and friends who come to his laboratory from all over the world.