Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Karl J. Astrom


4th William Gould Dow Distinguished Lecture

“Control - The Hidden Technology”

Karl J. Åström
Dept. of Automatic Control, Lund University, Sweden
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, UC Santa Barbara

Abstract
The field of automatic control is about 50 years old. It has developed very rapidly and it is now ubiquitous. This lecture presents some reflections on the dynamic development of the field. It starts with a brief history and a discussion of engineering science and natural science. Automatic control, being the first systems field, was a major paradigm shift because it fitted poorly in organizations based on mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering. Key ideas in the development of Control are presented. The interplay of theory and applications is discussed, as are relations to specific engineering disciplines, mathematics, physics, computer science, and biology. Particular emphasis is given to the interactions with computing. An attempt is made to assess the current status of the field and the lecture ends with some speculations about future developments. Questions dealing with research, education and applications will be covered. An explanation of the title of the paper will also be provided.

Biographical Sketch
Karl J. Åström received his Ph.D. from The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. During his studies he worked on inertial guidance for the Research Institute of National Defense in Stockholm. He worked for five years on Computer Control for IBM in Research Labs. in Stockholm, Yorktown Heights and San Jose, where he developed new methods for system identification and minimum variance control that were applied to control of paper machines. In 1965 he was appointed Professor and Chair of Automatic Control at Lund University, where he built the Department from scratch. He became Professor Emeritus in Lund in 2000, and since January 2002 he has held the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor at UC Santa Barbara. He has also served on advisory boards for companies, such as ASEA, Ericsson and Fisher Control.

Åström has broad interests in automatic control including, stochastic control, system identification, adaptive control, computer control and computer-aided control engineering. He has supervised 45 PhD students, written six books and more than 100 papers in archival journals. He holds three patents; one on automatic tuning of PID controllers has led to substantial production in Sweden.

Åström is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (KVA), and a foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Åström has received numerous honors, including four honorary doctorates, the Quazza Medal from IFAC, the Rufus Oldenburger edal from ASME, the IEEE Field Award in Control Systems Science and the IEEE edal of Honor.