Jin Au Kong, 1942-2008

 Jin Au Kong, 1942-2008

Jin Au Kong, 1942-2008

MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering, Jin Au Kong, internationally recognized for his work in electromagnetic wave theory and applications and beloved at MIT for his engaging teaching, died March 12 at age 65 from complications due to pneumonia.

Jin Au Kong became a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969 as assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and member of the Research Laboratory of Electronics. As Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, Kong was Chair of Area IV on Energy and Electromagnetic Systems from 1984 through 2003 and was director of the RLE Center for Electromagnetic Theory and Applications, CETA, from 1989. He successfully supervised well over 50 Ph.D. and 100 masters students.

Kong became an international figure in science through his service and external associations with public and private organizations world wide. From 1977 Kong served the United Nations for three years as a high-level consultant to the Under-Secretary-General on science and technology and as an Inter-regional Advisor on remote sensing technology for the Department of Technical Cooperation for Development.

Jin Kong’s research interest in the areas of electromagnetic wave propagation, radiation and scattering and applications in microwave remote sensing, geophysical exploration and electromagnetic transmission and coupling in microelectronic integrated circuits has led to publication of over 30 books including “Electromagnetic Wave Theory” and over 600 refereed journal articles, book chapters and conference papers. Recent research also included groundbreaking work on metamaterials, a new class of composites that exhibit extraordinary properties not readily observed in nature, and which show promise for a variety of novel optical and microwave applications.

Kong was Editor for the Wiley Series in Remote Sensing, Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Electromagnetic Waves and Applications, and Chief Editor for the book series Progress in Electromagnetics Research and founder of the “Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium.”

In 2006 Jin Au Kong was awarded the Docteur Honoris Causa by two universities in France. He was honored at the University of Nantes for “his significant contributions to the fundamental theories of electromagnetism, his leadership in the novel application of electromagnetic detection techniques to important problems in geophysics, and to his distinguished service to industry, governments, the United Nations, and to the global academic and research community.”

Professor Kong is remembered fondly by the many students who knew him not only as an extremely informative and formidable intellect but as a personable caring presence always up to the challenge of inserting and accepting humor in the classroom. In Course VI student evaluations, Kong was universally praised for his teaching of 6.630, Electromagnetics, —for his animated, enthusiastic, and lively teaching style, systematic treatment of concepts and ability to make a boring topic exciting and easily understood. Most students had few ideas for improving the class, so long as it was taught by Kong.

He received the following tribute from EECS graduate student, Joy Johnson on her EECSblog entry on March 24, 2008.

“A tribute to one of the best…

About a week and a half ago, I was shocked to hear that the professor who made my first semester at MIT one of the most interesting had passed away. Last semester I walked into my first class at MIT feeling scared, inferior, and just about ready to turn around and walk back to North Carolina—when in walks this older Asian man with a maroon sweater, white collar shirt with a scarf tied like an ascot, and slacks. He was small in stature but very intimidating until he opened his mouth. Instead of talking about electromagnetics and throwing out all these equations that I am sure I wouldn’t know, he began talking about James Clerk Maxwell; his life, his friends, everything you would ever want to know about Maxwell and more. Instead of acting pretentious and intimidating he made jokes and colorful analogies, he asked us questions. I had never experienced a professor who knew and had accomplished so much, but was so down to earth.

Many times he painted a colorful picture of Maxwell’s life and accomplishments, and other times he went head first into the subject we had signed up to learn, electromagnetics. But he always managed to bring humor and interactive conversation to the classroom. Including the day when a student came to class dressed as him. Everyone waited with baited breath for him to notice the student who sat on the front row with the same sweater, slacks, and scarf; even the same hair style. But of course professor played it cool throughout the whole class until the end when he even agreed to take a picture with the student which of course made its way to facebook.

I probably will never have another professor like Professor Kong, but I count it a blessing that I was in the last class to experience his unique style of teaching. He was, in my opinion, one of MIT’s best and he will be missed.” Joy Johnson’s EECS Blog entry, March 24, 2008.

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