Life & Times
Other sections of this memorial web site present the large volume and variety of published and presented papers prepared by Fred Bernard Wood over his professional career. The full measure of Fred Bernard’s interests and contributions can only be taken by understanding, in addition, the myriad other activities and issues that he engaged in throughout his adult life, and in the context of the sociopolitical times in which he lived. The purpose of the Life and Times section is to highlight Fred Bernard’s involvement with issues and organizations that did not necessarily result in a formal paper or presentation, but did have a significant impact and/or provide insight into what makes a socially responsible engineer tick.
Fred Bernard believed in living life in a full court press of information seeking across many disciplines and topics. He read broadly of the historical and current literature, including numerous journals, magazines, and newsletters, and over his lifetime amassed literally thousands of books. Because he was a systems scientist at heart, he saw the interconnectedness of issues and disciplines, and therefore his information collection and his engagement spanned a much wider spectrum than most engineers and scientists of his time (or now).
The approach of the Life and Times section is to illustrate the breadth and depth of Fred Bernard’s activities through selective examples and case studies. The intent is that this section will complement and provide context for other web site sections on his personal history, and his published and working papers.
Take a ride into the life of a professional engineer and scientist who was truly ahead of his time.
A core theme of Fred Bernard Wood’s life and times was the intersection of technology and society, the bridging of the worlds of science and technology, and of the social and political sciences in particular. From his early years, Fred Bernard embodied the interdisciplinary approach to human inquiry that became popular only much later in his life. Intuitively, he was driven to approach technology and social issues from multiple perspectives. And Fred Bernard’s interests were broad indeed.
As the end of World War II approached, Fred Bernard was one of many who began looking to the post-war future and pondering their options. As noted earlier, Fred Bernard ultimately decided to return to the University of California at Berkeley, his alma mater, for graduate studies in electrical engineering. His return was delayed by several months in order to wrap up and close out his wartime radar work at the MIT Radiation Laboratory.
When Fred Bernard began work at International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1952, he brought with him both strong technical skills in electrical engineering, honed at MIT and Cal Berkeley, and a deep interest in the social implications of science, technology, and engineering. He was part of a newly formed research laboratory at IBM San Jose, CA. By his own recollection, Fred Bernard took the IBM job in part to get closer to the realm of industry where the then nascent computer and data communication technology could be applied to real world problems.
Fred Bernard Wood was a lifelong advocate for world peace. Notwithstanding his service to help defeat the Axis Powers, Fred Bernard was active in local and national peace movements from the immediate post-WWII period through the next several decades. Indeed, he was gravely concerned about the huge costs and adverse consequences of war, and that the work of scientists and engineers could be used to fuel the military-industrial complex rather than for promoting peaceful co-existence and the peaceful applications of science and technology.
Fred Bernard Wood was a lifelong
environmentalist, starting in the days of naturalist and photographer
John Muir and the early Sierra Club. However his activism in the environmental
arena seriously intensified in the 1980s in connection, especially,
with the then nascent issue around global climate change. By the mid-1980s,
Fred Bernard was writing papers on climate change. By the late 1980s,
he and his long term colleague, Alden Bryant, President of the Earth
Regeneration Society (ERS), participated in and helped organize
various climate-related events. Fred Bernard served as Secretary-Treasurer
of ERS for many years, and was an active collaborator with Mr. Bryant
in all major ERS initiatives.
Fred Bernard’s main sources of literature included journals or newsletters associated with organizations in which he maintained membership, and from groups and organizations advocating issues that he identified with. The topics reflected the wide range of his interests, and included science, engineering, sociology, climate and environment, peace, religion and spirituality, and futurology.
Fred Bernard Wood was not the athletic type in terms of organized sports, but he loved to hike and camp. Besides the exercise, he found that hiking was an effective stimulus to his creative thought process. He occasionally mentioned “communing with Nature” and “being inspired by the outdoors” as important to his technical, philosophical, and systems research. His love of the outdoors also no doubt contributed to his strong identification with and advocacy for environmental protection and conservation.