Started in 1884, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (originally the American Institute for Electrical Engineering) is the source of almost 900 Electrical and Electronics industry standards and specifications, as well as other industry-related papers. IEEE sponsors industry conferences, education, seminars, and related events.
According to their web site, currently, their societies include:
The IEEE Technical Activities Board provides backing for a global technical volunteer
organization, provides informational resources, and facilitates communication between technical professionals
On April 15, 1884, twenty-five major figures in the electrical technology scene of the day plus five other electrical practitioners met at the American Society of Civil Engineers to devise an organizational structure for what would become the IEEE. The first official and organizational meeting occurred on May 13 at the same location. The IEEE web site indicates that Norvin Green, president of the Western Union Telegraph Company, was elected president, Nathaniel Keith, drafter of the call, became Secretary, and Rowland R. Hazard became Treasurer. Six Vice-Presidents were also chosen: Alexander Graham Bell, Charles D. Cross, Thomas A. Edison, George A. Hamilton, Charles H. Haskins, and Franklin L. Pope.
Shortly after the founding of IEEE (then the AIEE), during an exhibition in October, the society held its first technical session. Their first paper was "Notes on Phenomena in Incandescent Lamps" which opened discussion of the 'Edison Effect', which became the foundation of electronics.
Their first efforts in standards primarily related to the basics: units, definitions, and nomenclature... primarily relating to basic electrical science. The very first adoption was the 'Henry' as a unit of inductance measurement.
In 1903, Andrew Carnegie donated $1,000,000 (US) for a shared headquarters for both the AIEE, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Institute of Mining Engineers. The building, apparently at 33 West 29th Street in New York City, provided the societies with a headquarters until the late 50's. The United Engineering Center was then constructed as a replacement headquarters.
In 1946, ENIAC (considered to be the first true computer) was unveiled and many plans were made for computing technology by fledgling companies such as Electronic Research Associates and Electronic Control Corporation. The AIEE formed its committee on Large-Scale Computing Devices in this year, from which the concept of the IEEE in its eventual incarnation came.
On January 1, 1963, the IEEE was formed from the merger of the AIEE and the Institute of Radio Engineers, a struggling technical society dating back to 1912. Many of the IRE's procedures and structures were deemed superior to those of the AIEE and were adopted by the new organization. Possibly the completion of the merger could be considered to be the replacement of the AIEE's "Electrical Engineering" publication with "Spectrum" in 1964.
A few of the more notable IEEE standards:
Much of this information was gleaned from IEEE brochures and the IEEE website. I also actually remembered a little of it from when I was in mechanical engineering in college, amazingly enough.