AMHERST, Mass. - Robert E. McIntosh, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Massachusetts for more than 30 years, died July 10 at the age of 58 following a lengthy illness. He had a profound impact on his profession, and held a slate of honors including the title of Distinguished University Professor. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), as well as a recipient of the IEEE Centennial Medal.
McIntosh taught electrical and computer engineering at the University beginning in 1967. He studied and taught primarily in the fields of electromagnetic field theory, microwave engineering, wave propagation, and remote sensing. He was also co-director of the University’s Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory (MIRSL), along with Professor Calvin T. Swift.
Within MIRSL, McIntosh created advanced research instruments to increase understanding of complex geophysical processes, such as how hot the air on the earth’s surface is, how rough ocean waves are, and how hard the wind blows. He and his students flew hurricane missions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, monitored the water and ice content of clouds for the Department of Energy’s program on global warming, and created unique sensors that provided remote measurements of ocean currents, surface salinity, wave height, and environmental hazards such as oil spills.
Cora B. Marrett, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, called McIntosh’s early death "a great loss for the scientific community." She said: "However his success is measured, whether in external research dollars awarded, or the success of his former students, or the number of awards received, his career was the model of a distinguished professor."
She added that McIntosh was among the University’s very best faculty members. "His impact upon the scientific community through teaching, research, and leadership in his profession brought great credit to him, and, through him, to the University."
Joseph Goldstein, dean of the College of Engineering, called McIntosh "an outstanding faculty member" whose "contributions to the University were very special." Also, he said, McIntosh "developed remote sensing activities into a major laboratory acknowledged as one of the best in the world."
Goldstein added: "He was particularly proud of the students he taught and supervised in the Ph.D. program. His students have a great loyalty to him and often speak of his strong mentoring and support during and after their Ph.D. studies."
Also, he said: "I knew Bob as a colleague and a friend. I will miss him for many reasons, but most for his ability to look at difficult situations and to offer unique and useful ideas. The department and the College will make every effort to continue the programs that he worked so hard to develop." McIntosh authored nearly 100 journal publications and 114 conference papers, gave more than 100 invited lectures, and served on nearly 100 national committees for groups including IEEE, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. He received numerous awards at UMass, including the Senior Faculty Award in Engineering, the General Electric Teaching Award, and the department of electrical and computer engineering’s teaching award. He was a Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 1992 and received a Faculty Research Fellowship in 1995.
Born in Hartford, Conn., he received a bachelor’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a master’s degree from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. An Amherst resident, he is survived by his wife, Anne (Potvin), five sons, and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements will be handled by Amherst Funeral Home.