In Memory of Ray Bartnikas


Ray Bartnikas passed away after a long illness on September 13, 2022. Ray was born on January 25, 1936, in Latvia during troubled times. His parents were eventually able to settle as refugees in Canada. He obtained his BASc degree in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto in 1958 and the MEng and PhD degrees from McGill University in Montreal in 1962 and 1964, respectively, also in electrical engineering.

In 1958 he joined the Cable Development Laboratories of the Northern Electric Company in Lachine, Quebec, where he carried out work on ionization discharges in cavities, and on dielectric losses in cable insulating systems. In 1963 he joined the Northern Electric Research and Development Laboratories in Ottawa, where he continued his work on discharges and dielectrics, becoming increasingly involved in thin film dielectrics with application to integrated circuits and semiconductor devices. In 1968 he joined the Institute de Recherche d’Hydro Quebec (IREQ), engaging in research on partial discharge phenomena and on the properties and aging of dielectric materials with applications to high voltage cables, transformers, and rotating machines. In1980 he was appointed scientific director of the Materials Science Department. One of his major achievements there was the design at IREQ’s High Power Lab of an accelerated aging experiment for stator bars, with three simultaneous aging factors (electrical, thermal, and mechanical), a world premiere.

Ray Bartnikas was author of hundreds of scientific and technical papers in the areas of dielectrics, gaseous discharges, partial discharge, and associated measurement techniques. He was the editor of the ASTM monograph/book series Engineering Dielectrics and published two books, titled Elements of Cable Engineering and Power Cable Engineering. He was adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, the École Polytechnique de Montréal, and McGill University, supervising numerous graduate students. Beginning in 1995 he was a visiting professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza in Italy.

Bartnikas was a recipient of many scientific awards, which covered his office walls at IREQ. From IEEE, he received in 1980 the IEEE Thomas Dakin Distinguished Technical Contributions Award, the IEEE Centennial Medal, in 1987 the IEEE DEIS J.B. Whitehead Lecture Award, in 1989 the IEEE Morris E. Leeds Award “for the development of widely used measurement techniques for dielectric materials and insulation systems,” and in 1993 the IEEE Canada McNaughton Medal recognizing his contributions to the engineering profession in Canada. From ASTM, he received the Charles B. Dudler Award in 1985 and the Arnold H. Scott Award from Committee D9. Of particular note was his investiture as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1999, a distinction that is rarely given to engineers.

He was a Life Fellow of the IEEE (1997), ASTM (1985), the Institute of Physics (UK), and the Royal Society of Canada (Academy of Science division). He was chair of the ASTM Committee on Electrical and Electronic Insulation Materials (D27) from 1979 to 1985. He also served as the first president of the IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society in 1977 and 1978 and was a member of the IEEE Energy Committee and the IEEE PES Insulated Conductors Committee. He was international chair of the IEC TC10 Committee on Insulating Fluids from 2008 to 2013.

Michel Duval, who has been his colleague at IREQ since 1970, said he benefited a lot from his mentorship, encouraged by him to serve as a volunteer for the IEEE Montreal section and other IEEE committees. Laurent Lamarre, who has been another of his colleagues at IREQ since 1982, said his contributions to IREQ and to the field of electrical insulation and partial discharges are immense. Ray spent a long period (from 1995 to 2014) as visiting professor at the University of Roma, collaborating with Professor Massimo Pompili. In the early stages of this collaboration, Ray and Massimo pioneered the setting up of partial discharge ultra-wideband (UWB) detection systems for insulating liquids, with important findings that are applied worldwide today. The collaboration with Massimo continued through Ray’s work as a well-known guest editor of IEEE Transaction on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation on the subjects of partial discharges and dielectric liquids, and breakdown measurement in dielectric liquids.

Ray is survived by his beloved wife, Margaret (nee McLachlan), and two children, namely, Andrea Stang (Brent) and Thomas Bartnikas (Lisa).

Ray will be greatly missed.

Massimo Pompili