Steven Allan Boggs
March 15, 1946 – June 2, 2018
Dr. Steven Allan Boggs passed away on June 2, 2018 after a 6-month battle with inoperable brain cancer. Steve was one of the brightest and most-innovative scientists in the field of dielectrics and electrical insulation. His innovations will stand forever, and his legacy will be carried on through his students.
Steve was born in Miami, Florida in 1946 but grew up in Portland, Oregon area, where he attended Lake Oswego High School and Reed College, from which he received a B.A. in Physics in 1968. Steve obtained his Ph.D. in Physics in 1972 at the University of Toronto under Dr. Harry Welsh’s supervision and subsequently did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, Canada.
Steve as a young boy was distinguished by his intelligence and a lack of interest in following the crowd, a rare quality for an adolescent. He was his own boy and went on to become his own man. He was interested in radios and high-fidelity equipment of all kinds. At age 13, he used a crystal set and a meter to determine the amount of signal he would receive from the local radio station – a typical activity for the teenage Steve. He retained this curiosity and “geekiness” throughout his life.
After completing the post-doctoral fellowship at NRC, Steve joined the Research Division of Ontario Hydro, at the time the largest electric power utility in North America. His tenure at the Toronto laboratory extended from 1975 to 1987. It was a fantastic time to be involved in research in the power utility sector. The US-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Canadian Electrical Association were starting to fund major, long-term investigations into various utility problems. At the same time, advancements in oscilloscopes, wideband spectrum and impedance analyzers, digital instruments, fast photomultipliers and other optical tools were enabling much deeper investigations into insulation failure mechanisms and diagnostics. For example, the invention of the Tektronix 466 and 7104 scopes enabled us to see the true partial discharge (PD) current pulses for the first time, without the distortion caused by the measuring system. In addition, personal computers enabled cost-effective automated measurements and analysis. This confluence enabled Steve to do pioneering work on the nature and measurement of PD, help pioneer the measurement of PD in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) range in gas-insulated substations (GIS) and rotating machines, contribute to the understanding of electric and water trees, develop better methods of measuring the thermal impedance of the environment surrounding transmission-class power cables, invent ultra-sensitive PD detection and location in very large GIS spacers using X-rays. This work was usually not done alone – he worked with a team of first rate researchers including Frank Chu, Nobby Fujimoto, and Syl Rizzetto. He also had a great boss who was committed to research - Dr. Gary Ford.
Unbeknownst to most, in the mid-1980s, Steve pursued an MBA part-time at the University of Toronto. Earning this degree in 1987, many of his colleagues wondered why he did this, since in fact this new knowledge was of limited use in his research position at Ontario Hydro. However, it may have led him to start looking for another position.
Steve joined Underground Systems Inc. (USi) in February of 1987 as Director of Engineering and Research. Steve was a major contributor in USi’s role as EPRI’s Prime Contractor on a number of underground electric power transmission research programs. They included EPRI’s Superconducting Transmission Initiative (STI), which was the US response to utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Conductors (HTSC) for electric power transmission. He also spearheaded the successful development of a novel high-pressure fluid-filled (HPFF) Pipe Type Cable Termination utilizing ceramic capacitors for stress control. Both projects resulted in patents co-authored by Steve. He was also Vice President of Chicago Condenser Corporation, a USi subsidiary, and was the principal investigator on a US Department of Energy funded development program for a high energy density electrolytic capacitor for the US Strategic Defense Initiative Organization “Star Wars” program.
Steve left industry to pursue his academic interests at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in 1993 as a tenured research professor and the Director of the Electrical Insulation Research Center of the Institute of Materials Science, with joint appointment to the Graduate Programs of Materials Science, Physics, and Electrical Engineering. In defense of leaving USi, he said, “I can continue to do work for USi but you won’t have to pay me”. Steve was also an adjunct professor and advisory professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto and Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, China, respectively. Between the universities, he supervised over 20 Ph.D. students over about 20 years, half of whom were female, making him an early practitioner for gender equality in the fields of STEM. As a mentor, Steve has deeply, positively and thoughtfully influenced the lives and careers of not only his students but also the junior faculty members at UConn. He has extended his sincere and selfless help and service to many in the community.
At UConn, Steve’s research interest focused primarily on understanding high field phenomena in solid dielectrics, and development and applications of computer programs for transient nonlinear finite element analysis, but he continued to contribute in the understanding of high frequency phenomena in power apparatus, SF6 insulated systems, outdoor insulation, and PD measurement. Steve was a strong proponent of the Ethylene-Propylene-Rubber Cable Consortium and was active in industrial collaborative projects on nonlinear materials for surge arrestors, stress grading for cable joints and rotating machine end-windings for Toshiba, TMEIC (Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Corporation), Kerite, Okonite, among others. As the principal investigator, Steve developed and led many major research programs, including High Field Injection with Guarded Needle Electrode and High Range Radiation Monitoring Cables for EPRI, and various pulsed power capacitor projects for Office of Naval Research (ONR), Army Research Laboratory (ARL), and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through prominent programs such as Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURIs).
His research encompassed both experimental and theoretical bases. At the beginning of his career, Steve was primarily an experimentalist. However, with the advances in computing power, he gradually transitioned into a theoretician. Although this transition started at Ontario Hydro (for example, his widely cited 1982 Transactions EI paper "Fundamental Limitations in the Measurement of Corona and Partial Discharge"), it was at UConn that the theoretician in Steve took hold. He once said, “A Ph.D. study is not about collecting data but is about analyzing and developing new models based on those data.” Steve was one of the early thinkers at UConn who saw the value of computational approach in materials science and engineering, and he inspired his colleague Rampi Ramprasad, who was a junior faculty member when they met in 2004, to explore the atomic-level origins of dielectric response, aging and breakdown. Through the 14 years of collaboration, their joint work (along with key contributions from others) has ultimately led to some remarkable materials discovery outcomes.
Steve retired from the University of Connecticut in September 2013 to devote full time to his consulting company, NonLinear Systems, Inc. Throughout his career, Steve was a proactive member in many professional societies, especially IEEE Dielectric and Electrical Insulation Society (DEIS) and IEEE Power and Energy Society’s Insulated Conductor Committee. He was active in the organization of the IEEE International Symposium on Electrical Insulation and the IEEE Conference of Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP). He was also an important contributor to the Basic Energy Science Workshops organized by US Department of Energy and was a key contributor to the roadmap report on Basic Research Needs for Materials under Extreme Environments. Steve was a prolific writer, publishing over 300 journal and conference papers, some of them prize papers. He was invited to give lectures over 80 times, not only in US but also in Asia and Europe. He was a Fellow of the IEEE, winner of the IEEE DEIS Thomas Dakin Award, and a Whitehead Memorial Lecturer.
Steve was passionate – both in his work, but often also in his interactions with colleagues. He had a special place in his heart for journal editors! Steve’s father was an English professor, and it seems Steve inherited the only correct writing style. Many editors received long letters or emails from Steve about their temerity in changing the grammar in a submitted paper. Steve was also not very tolerant of bureaucracy – many meetings were made more interesting when Steve decided to disagree with something. The transition of the CEIDP from the NRC to the IEEE DEIS was a notable example. Although Steve was very empathic in sharing his opinions – there was always an important principal he was highlighting.
Outside of the professional life, Steve was an ardent collector of classical music albums with over 1000 multi-channel and super-audio CDs. He was an audiophile with a keen ear for sound quality. His love and vast knowledge of audio equipment allowed him to make friendships in unusual occasions. One such occasion happened on a Saturday morning in early 2010 when Steve walked into Lance Arnold’s art studio in their neighborhood in Ashford, Connecticut. He noticed that Lance was playing classical music on a boom box even though he had a pair of nice speakers mounted on the ceiling. Upon learning the speakers were not working and after some simple diagnosis, Steve suggested Lance buy some inexpensive repair materials, and together they fixed the speakers. Soon, they became the best of friends and often shared the love of classical/jazz music, art, and home-cooking. Some of Steve’s “specialties” include soufflé, lamb shanks with lentil, goat bourguignon, Raclette cheese with potatoes, and Chinese hot pots. Steve was also an enthusiastic art-museum-goer with special interest in Japanese art, particularly screens and woodblock prints.
Jon Frierson, Greg Stone, Paul Alex, Yang Cao, Rampi Ramprasad, Lance Arnold, and Janet Ho
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Steven Allan Boggs
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September 14, 2018
Steve was always very bright when I shared classes with him in high school. Nice man, RIP.
September 14, 2018
Who knew what an incredible genius we had in our class.
September 14, 2018
I will always remember Steve as a gentle soul who had brilliant mind. And forever have the image of him carrying a big brown briefcase.
September 14, 2018
Steve was the finest person I met at Lake Oswego High.
September 14, 2018
What a handsome picture of Steve. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute to a fine man. I know his classmates will appreciate his significant accomplishments and the opportunity to get to know, a little better, our esteemed classmate.
September 5, 2018
I will always remember the gloomy New England winter afternoon on which I met Steve for the first time more than 19 years ago, and its stark contrast with the many years of sunshine and enlightenment Steve shed on my life. As an ignorant graduate student just coming to this country and someone not professionally affiliated with Steve, I received an incredible amount of help, candid advice, and heart-feeling warmth from Steve. It made this foreign country feel much more like home to a new immigrant. Over the years, whenever I ran into problems, just the thought that I could go to Steve for his advice made me feel more confident and calmer. How wrong was I by taking it for granted that I could always rely on Steve’s support and Steve would be there forever! The glorious beacon of light suddenly faded. It’s hard to accept the loss, but I feel extremely lucky to have known Steve and will always remember Steve as the best friend I have ever had. His sincerity, witty humor, and his tremendous passion as a way of life will be forever missed.
Zhong Zheng (Student )
August 19, 2018
I can't help crying when I open the page and see Professor Boggs smiles at me in his sweeter with his favorite cake in hands. Here he comes. His looks never change since 18 years ago when, just by luck, I became his student, which totally changed my life in the positive way.
As the Chinese saying goes, 一日为师，终生为父 (Once be your teacher, always respected as your father), I really owe him. He is the first western people I really know and set up a very good example for me to follow.
In research, he told me to spend 90% of the time to ‘think’ about the problems, to understand the underlying fundamentals, and then the experiments and simulations become a just proof of good thinking.
He gave me a good example of straight debates. I still remember the time when I received from him an email that started with ‘No. You are wrong...’ I was astonished and ashamed at that moment. After that, I am always more careful before jumping into a quick answer.
In working with the students, he is the nicest person I ever know, which is agreed by all his students. He told me that’s because his supervisor was also very nice to him back in the university. That becomes the tradition I am trying to pass towards my students as well.
He has spent enormous energy to help me in my personal life. He becomes a very important person in my life and always a good resource for help. He is also remembered by my family. My elder daughter, Sophia, fell into tears when she saw the picture of her ‘foreign grandpa’ in sick and asked to come and see him immediately.
There are just way too many good memories to share…
Will you be proud of me, professor? I am not sure but I will keep trying in my life.
May a good man rest in peace.
July 2, 2018
Steve Boggs, Frank Chu, and Nobby Fujimoto at 5th Gaseous Dielectric Symposium at Knoxville, TN
Rampi Ramprasad (Cont.)
June 28, 2018
Steve was a visionary, and lead by example. He always strove for excellence in anything that he would do. His deep and thorough knowledge of numerous varied subjects (e.g., electronics, music theory, music technology, English literature, etc.) is legendary. His own high voltage dielectrics lab was (and is) world-class, and a source of pride and value to UConn. His research outlook, problem-solving practices, an insatiable, intense and selfless desire to “get things right” (regardless of whether he got credit for it or not), and student mentoring (and empowering) philosophies were enormously effective and are unique to Steve. These are his legacy which will be cherished by posterity.
I am grateful for all that Steve has done, for me and for the community. His thoughtfulness and energy has propelled innumerable individuals to lead successful lives and careers. Steve was always, and will always be, larger than life. He will be sorely missed, and he will continue to inspire.
June 28, 2018
I feel fortunate and privileged to have known Steve Boggs, who has been a thoughtful friend, selfless mentor and intellectual sounding board throughout the almost 14 years I have known him (2004-2018). Steve was a truly unique human being—deeply intellectual and encyclopedic, compassionate and caring, intense, and tough but fair. He spoke with clarity, authority and gravitas.
But the thing that makes Steve truly special, and for which he will be missed most sorely by many, is the sincere and selfless help and service he has extended to so many in the community. Steve has deeply, positively and thoughtfully influenced the lives and careers of many of us, including myself and many students, junior and senior faculty members at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and beyond.
Steve was my longest-term scientific collaborator. Our joint work spanned almost the entire time I have known Steve, since the time I joined UConn as a junior faculty member in 2004. Steve was instrumental in shaping my scientific views and philosophies, and I am indebted to him for my own research successes. Steve was one of the early thinkers at UConn who saw the value of computational approaches (my expertise) in materials science and engineering, and he got me to think about the atomic-level origins of dielectric response, aging and breakdown. This is an important and timely research topic, which continues to be a central theme of my present research. Our joint work (along with key contributions from others) have ultimately lead to a few remarkable materials discovery outcomes.
June 27, 2018
Steve will always be a great inspiration to me, in my work I often think: how would Steve solve this problem. In the past, I usually ended up with sending him an email, and typically got a long answer with lots of useful suggestions the next day. Clearly I will miss being able to discuss science with Steve, but what I will miss even more is the “smalltalk” between the work related talk. I have had so many cups of espresso in Steve’s office or in his home talking about everything like old tape recorders, amplifiers, literature, children, movies, espresso-machines, dumplings, wine-making, Japanese art and culture, computers, color printers, cats, houses, and cars. While thinking back on this makes me happy, knowing that we will have no more conversations like these also makes me cry. My family and I really appreciated the time we got with Steve while he was here in Norway working. He was always very good with the kids. I remember him being in our house playing with my oldest daughter (Frida) when she was only a few years old. She found some of her toys and sat with him in the couch, playing with him. While they could not understand each other they had no problem communicating. Steve said that “ I think I’m invited to play, but I don’t know the rules”, that did not seem to slow them down though. After he left for the US again she kept asking for him for a few weeks, suggesting that we should go see him.
Steve always showed that he cared about how his students were doing both while they were his students and after they started working. To me the way he treated his students and his friends will always be an inspiration. By caring for others, he also got many friends and became an important person in the life of so many.
June 27, 2018
Dr. Steven A. Boggs delivered an outstanding and inspiring Whitehead Memorial Lecture at the CEIDP 2017 in Ft.Worth, was the recipient of the 2010 Thomas W. Dakin Distinguished Technical Contributions Award, published a large number of papers in our conference records, transactions and magazine over many years, contributed a lot to the DEIS and to the CEIDP over several decades, and inspired and guided several of us during their careers and in their pursuit of a better understanding about dielectric materials and their applications. It is with deep gratitude that we say good-bye to an outstanding colleague and a very gifted and highly motivated scientist and engineer, colleague and friend. Steve never made it easy for himself and for others, but with his usually deep insight, his quick mind and his thorough analysis, he was one of our best. He will be remembered by the dielectrics community as a great personality and a very special dielectrician with a large range of interests.
We will always keep a special place for Steve in our memories. He was a really special person, and I am also personally very grateful that I had so many chances to meet him and to interact with him.
June 27, 2018
I owe Steve my entire career at Toronto Hydro. He has been my mentor and sounding board on two of the biggest projects I worked on during my career. He’s always provided advice that I genuinely looked up to and always appreciated. He’s provided feedback and honest opinion on my work and for that I am forever grateful to him. I have always looked up to and respected him. He is truly a brilliant mind of this generation and his work is impactful.
June 27, 2018
Steve's research has been a source of inspiration to me over the years. His more recent evaluations of potential DEIS fellows has been incisive and very useful.
Steve will be missed by your family and the University, but I can assure you that he will also be missed by the Dielectrics and a Electrical Insulation community.
We have a conference coming up in a week, which is another in the series, the last of which Steve attended in Montpellier. You could rely on him to ask the difficult questions but also to give praise where praise was due. I’m sure we will remember him at the conference.
June 18, 2018
I will remember Steve as a demanding and rigorous researcher, bearing wisdom and inspiration for renewal.
Steve has been able to cover a broad gap between fundamental and applied approaches.
He remains an example for us and we will miss him. May he rest in peace.
June 18, 2018
Over the years you have been helpful in my career, beginning in the 1970s with dielectric testing of a SF6 gas insulated substation from Siemens where fretting in transport had generated particles in critical areas. Then in the 1990s there was Manitoba Hydro’s work over several years to disprove the Russian claim that water trees in XLPE cable insulation could be detected by time-domain reflectometry when what they were seeing was just an artifact of the measurement. More recently your 2017 Whitehead Lecture has to a degree indicated your philosophy. There were three presentations of the lecture: the paper in the CEIDP Proceedings; the spoke Lecture; and the subsequent Magazine article. The Introduction of the spoken lecture was somewhat different, but all three focused on philosophical aspects.
June 18, 2018
Steve will be remembered for his many contributions to the power industry and the academic community. I was a colleague of Steve since 1973 when we first met at a Toronto firm Electronic Associates. I followed him to Ontario Hydro where we worked in the Research Division utilizing our physics background to solve problems in underground transmission, gaseous dielectrics and advanced power equipment. Steve's technical insights and abilities to secure external funding from EPRI and CEA made him the rising star of the Division. His penetrating observations and strong character changed the stodgy atmosphere of the conservative power industry workplace. Many of us, including Dr. Greg Stone, lost a colleague when Steve left the Research Division in the mid 80s to pursue more interesting and challenging opportunities in the US.
On a personal note, I treasured our working friendship at Ontario Hydro and ever grateful to him on alerting me about the job opportunity. His writing skill in completing many of our join publications and proposals in record time always amazed me. My wife and I were surprised on how Steve loved very hot and spicy food as we need to have extra strength Szechuan hot sauce in our kitchen whenever he came to dinner. His love of classical music left me many 78" vinyl when he changed thousands of his collection to CDs, and I still have his pair of vintage Dynaco loud speakers when he changed that to the powerful SF6 speakers.
May Steve rest in peace.
June 18, 2018
Steve was like a father to me, very kind and a great scientist who helps me a lot and who illuminates me with his knowledge.
I will really miss him and I will never forget him at all.
May he rest in peace.
June 18, 2018
Steve was a long-time friend, colleague, and sparring partner on the CEIDP board. Scientific discussions with him were two edged arguments with scientific truth the aim. I was surprised when I was first informed that he was ill, and this news is totally unexpected by me as he was so much ‘larger than life’ that I expected him to pull through. He will be deeply missed by the research community and especially by his students to whom he was ever an inspiration. Something of him will live on in us, I hope.
I send my sincerest condolences to his family. To my friend I can only say “fare thee well”.
June 15, 2018
I knew Steve since 2001: there was a research project conducted at Cable Technology Laboratories for Steve, and it was the very first project that I performed at CTL. There were so many more joint projects and discussions that took place since then. I must also mention that many technical papers published by Steve are used at CTL on daily basis as a technical guidance.
On behalf of CTL team, please accept our deepest condolence.
Gian Carlo Montanari
June 15, 2018
I have been meeting, talking and fighting with Steve for more than 30 years, with the maximum respect and esteem from both sides. I though he was one of the few friends I have, even if we were not meeting anymore too often, and one of the few able to appreciate a really good glass of wine. I kept for him (us) in Florida, where we are going to live, a bottle of Ornellaia, from Tuscany, to show him how much good Italian wines can be better than Californian wine.
I remember that he told me that he wanted to move to Washington to finally enjoy life and retirement in a city full of cultural opportunities.
Please accept my and Tina (my wife who knew Steve) condolences.
June 15, 2018
I have known Steve for more than 16 years. He was a dear friend and a great colleague. He had a very high standard for research. He never hesitated to raise different opinions and asked sharp questions when it came to scientific discussion. On the other hand, he was also an extremely caring advisor. He spent significant amount of time in the laboratory working with students side-by-side on experimental designs and simulations. He was very tolerant and patient with students’ mistakes. The last time I saw Steve was at a lunch in November. As usual, he talked extensively about his former students – who just received a job offer, who just published a high-impact journal paper, and who just delivered an invited talk. I could tell that he was in contact with most of his former students and he was extremely proud of their achievements.
It is hard to accept Steve’s passing. May he rest in peace.