Hans R. Camenzind,
Best known for inventing the 555 timer IC circa 1970 and selling the design to Signetics (pre Philips acquisition) to fund his fledgling start-up, InterDesign. The 555 is the most ubiquitous IC ever created .
Dr. Woo Paik, the father of digital video compression, should be on this list.
Were it not for his ability to build and demonstrate working video compression for HDTV in time for General Instrument to join the "Grand Alliance", we would most likely have ended up with a bandwidth-inefficient analog HDTV system -- not to mention that every other digital video system and standard in use today evolved from his work.
First, computer science has been incorporated into the EE department in many universities these days. And too, EEs come in multiple shades of gray, some of which you might consider to be mathematicians or physicists.
For instance, I've done digital networks and math, virtually no soldering, and little circuit design, in my entire career. Yet, I'm EE through and through.
Yunko said: "Here, we are looking for a gem. Perhaps, a story behind stories. Or someone -- who may not have received a lot of press -- played an important role in a bigger team."
Oh, well in that case, you need look no further than Frank Eory. Back in 2000, he led the ATSC's Task Force on RF System Performance, to "examine the state of the art in 8-VSB transmission and reception equipment, and to make recommendations to the RF Task Force ..." to achieve more robust performance from ATSC digital receivers than what was originally the goal of the standard. Performance that real consumers of terrestrial DTV had come to expect, by the time the system was being deployed, specifically with respect to reception using simple indoor antennas.
Their findings were published in an ATSC report titled "Performance Assessment of the ATSC Transmission System, Equipment and Future Directions," July 10, 2000, which led to the the fourth generation (and beyond) DTV receivers, starting with the Linx receiver, non-integrated prototype demoed in 2002. As far as I'm concerned, "saving the day" for the ATSC standard.
In the "unsung hero" category, I'd add Mineo Yamatake. He is an excellent engineer who worked closely with the likes of Bob Widlar and Bob Dobkin. Although Widlar and Dobkin become well known names in the industry, Mineo Yamatake was the quiet support behind these guys. He generated many great products for National Semiconductor, back when there was a National Semiconductor.