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The IRE was unique; it was the most scientific of American engineering societies. This spirit found expression in high membership standards, a stress upon crativity, democratic elections, and dedication to international scientific ideals. The relationship between professional standards and the style and direction of the work fostered by a professional society has not been clear historically, however. By examining a specific case, nonlinear problems, this paper shows that there was a convergence between the values implicit in the development of a highly scientific field and the professional atmosphere created by the founders of the IRE.