In Memoriam: Peter J. Seaba

Publication: The Neurodiagnostic Journal
Date published: December 1, 2012

Peter Seaba was the one true constant in the EEG Lab at the University of Iowa. Dr. Yamada and I both joined the Lab in the early 1970s. Pete was already a core and essential part of the EEG lab as an electrical engineer. He started to study EEG engineering as a master's degree student at the University of Iowa under Dr. John Knott, who was a nationally and internationally known pioneer in EEG. Pete had extensive knowledge about the EEG instrument and he taught all the EEG technologists in the lab and gave countless lectures locally and across the country. He taught electrical safety and troubleshooting, insisting that much of what gave us problems was "cockpit trouble." In fact, I don't think anyone in the US could compete with Pete's knowledge and expertise in EEG engineering. He published countless articles on topics of interest in neurodiagnostic technology and authored many chapters in textbooks. Pete also worked at the national level for safe practices in EEG. Because of his extensive knowledge and experience, one well known EEG instrument/ biomedical company sought his expertise from 1985 to 1988. Fortunately we got him back to our EEG laboratories a few years after we lost him.

The history of EEG started to change with the development of evoked potentials. Pete fashioned a room full of equipment to do evoked potentials before the days of commercially available instruments. We became one of the earliest Neurodiagnostic labs to be able to do remote monitoring of EEG and evoked potentials from the operating room to the EEG lab via coaxial cable and direct EEG cable connections. This would not have been possible without Pete's innovating ideas and experience. As computers and the digital era arrived and when email and the World Wide Web were new concepts, he mastered them easily. I remember he insisted that we learn how to use email, saying that someday it would be a very important thing to know. He became the engineer for not only EEG and EP, but also intraoperative monitoring, electromyography, the Sleep lab, and all of Neurology. His computer knowledge grew and grew and when EEG became fully computerized, he was well prepared to lead our lab into the 21st century.

Beyond being great at his job, Pete was a friend to all of us - those in the University of Iowa EEG Lab and also to those Neurodiagnostic technologists and Neurologists across the country. He loved to socialize with the technologists at EEG conventions. Pete leaves behind his wife, Hazel, and son, Louis. He was very proud of both of them for their accomplishments. He talked frequently about where Hazel was traveling to next and the radio controlled airplanes or restored cars that he and Louis enjoyed. Pete always had a twinkle in his eye as if a joke lay just under the surface. We will all miss that twinkle, but we will never forget it.

Becky Meng, R. EEG/EPT, BA

Thoru Yamada, M.D.

Pete will be recalled for his zest and zing for life. He had a talent to interact comfortably and inclusively with a wide variety of folks. Students adored him and professionals respected his knowledge.

He valued family, researching the branches and limbs of his heritage long before it became popular and accessible on the Internet. Pete often took professional colleagues to meet family members while combining professional meetings in far away cities with 'shirt-tail' relatives who were found to live in the area. We felt a part of his extended family.

At an EEG Department social gathering in the late sixties, he chanced to meet the roommate of one of the technicians. A spark was struck. I recall that Pete often beat me home in order to pick up Hazel for dinner or an evening's activities. Somewhere there may still be a few pages of an infamous paper EEG recording; half the electrodes on Hazel, the others on Peter, and the ground electrode held in their clasped hands. Such was the beginning of their long partnership.

His spirit will live in memory.

Maxine Wilson-Young, R. EEG T., RET

My best memory of Pete is a coffee break with him and Albert Grass in Quincy, Massachusetts about 1979 or so. Pete and I were troubleshooting an "intermittent" problem with a Model 10 evoked potential machine and had disagreed on how to proceed. Albert dragged us away from the repair shop, made a pot of his famous "Gamma Brew" and asked if we thought that technology was the best long-term solution to health care, or if nature should just be allowed to take its course, since we were all going to die anyhow.

Startled, I responded with an immediate "yes", but Pete after a few thoughtful minutes said, "No, probably not, but technology was surely more fun than the alternative."

That was Pete - the consummate technologist and enjoying every minute.

Mike Young, RET

On May 22, 2012 I had the privilege of interviewing Pete Seaba for archival by ASET and the Smithsonian Institution. Using the questions written by the Smithsonian Institution curator, Pete and I discussed many things. My favorite part is when I asked Pete the question, "What drew you to EEG and diagnostics?"

Pete responded, "What finally brought me into the EEG lab was a psychology experiment. Engineering students tend to wait until the last minute to fill in their research hours. I did, too. I went over and took a 4 hour credit experiment in a psych hospital. As I got there, the person said that the equipment isn't working and we'll give you a 1 hour credit. I said give me 4 hours credit and I'll get it working for you. He agreed and we got the equipment working in no time. I had a call from the head of the lab offering me a job the next week. I started then as a half-time engineer on July 1, 1966 and also half-time teaching assistant and was a senior in Electrical Engineering."

Pete taught so many of us, beyond the students at the University of Iowa, about electronics, electrical safety, ground loops... through lectures and articles. Pete was awarded the Maureen Berkeley Award twice: in 1975 for his article "Understanding Frequency Responses" and in 1984 for his article "Differential Amplifiers and Their Limitations." Pete patiently explained concepts even if it was the third or even the tenth time you asked him.

Pete helped so many of us to be knowledgeable, thus comfortable, with the equipment and to become technologists. We will always be grateful.

Lucy Sullivan, R. EEG T., CLTM

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