About Eta Kappa Nu (HKN)
Eta Kappa Nu is the Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society. HKN, as wecall it, seeks to foster and reward scholarship and also to help members become both better professionals and better citizens.
Eta Kappa Nu was founded in 1904 at the University of Illinois for electrical engineering students not just to stimulate and reward scholarship but to assist and encourage its members to grow professionally throughout their entire lives. Eta Kappa Nu now has chapters in over half of all the engineering schools in the United States. Eta Kappa Nu invites into membership students in their junior year of study of electrical engineering who rank in the upper quarter of their class and senior year students who rank in the upper third of their class. History has shown that these are the students who later become leaders in the profession and in the community at large.
The Eta Kappa Nu initiation ceremony was designed to challenge the candidates to aspire to the ideals of dedicated service, a lifetime of scholarship and intellectual growth and moral character. The ceremony is usually conducted by the officers of the student chapter. In the traditional ceremony the officers use the names of historical men who first discovered the principles of electrical science which forms the basis of the modern day study of electrical engineering. The character Wheatstone used in the ceremony is taken from Sir Charles Wheatstone, an English physicist. He was born in Gloucester, England in 1802 and died in 1875. His professional life was devoted to university teaching and research and in his last years he served as a professor at Kings College in London. Although he is most noted for his invention of a special circuit which measures electrical resistance accurately and which is still used today, he also played a prominent part in the early development of electrical generators and telegraphy through underwater cables. Another character's name is Faraday. The name is taken from Michael Faraday, another English physicist who lived from 1791 to 1867. Among his many works, his most important were his experiments on the relationship between electricity and magnetism. The character called Ampere takes that name from Andre Marie Ampere, a French physicist who lived from 1775 to 1836. While he was a professor at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris he published expositions on the theory of the relationship between electric current and magnetism which became the basis of our current understanding of electromagnetic theory. The character Ohm uses the name of George Simon Ohm, a German physicist who was born in 1787 and died in 1857. He was a professor at Jesuits College at Cologne, then at the Polytechnic school of Nurnberg and finally at the University in Munich. Although he published a great deal, his only famous work was his simple theory of the relationship between electric current and the voltage across a resistance which is now known as Ohm's Law. This law is one of the basic principles of electrical science, but at the time he published the paper stating his theory the idea was so coldly received that Ohm's feelings were hurt and he resigned his post at Cologne. The name Volta was taken from the Italian physicist Allessandro Ginseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta who lived from 1745 to 1827. He was appointed to teaching posts at several universities during his career. The culmination of that career was his appointment by the emperor of Austria in 1815, as the director of the philosophical faculty at the University of Padua. Because of his renowned experiments on electricity he was invited to Paris by Napoleon to demonstrate his work on the generation of electric current. His most important invention was that of the electric battery which provided the first source of continuous electric current. Finally, the character's name Coulomb comes from the French physicist Charles Augustin De Coulomb. During his lifetime, from 1736 to 1806, he was a military engineer and later, because of poor health, an inspector of public instruction, but most of his adult life he devoted himself to scientific research on electricity. His major contribution to the understanding of electrical science was his explanation and measurement of the force between electrical charges.
The work of these men and others has given us the foundation of electrical science and our modern day electrical engineering. We use their names to honor their memory and to remind ourselves of what we owe to those few early scientific pioneers whose works touch almost every aspect of our modern way of life.