Logo: University of Southern California

4 x 3 = Exceptional USC achievement

Tutor Hall reception honors quartet who are members of three national academies

May 05, 2006 —
Triple crowned heads: (from left) Dean Yannis Yortsos, Leonard Adleman, Robert Hellwarth, Solomon Golomb, Andrew Viterbi, Dean Joesph Aoun.
President John F. Kennedy, at a White House gathering, famously quipped that "there has never been a greater concentration of intellectual power here... since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.""  

That kind of crowd filled the Dean’s Boardroom in Ronald Tutor Hall May 3, as about 50 of USC's best minds gathered to pay tribute to four stars.

The four are faculty, all affiliated with the USC Viterbi School, who hold memberships in the three prestigious national academies: the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).

At the beginning of the event, three of the honorees also held an appointment in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, but at the event's close, all four did.

Rare distinction: commemorative plaques for four great careers.
Two of them, Andrew J. Viterbi and his longtime mentor and friend Solomon W. Golomb, have been triple members for several years. But last week Leonard M. Adleman and Robert Willis Hellwarth both achieved the same rare distinction.  Hellwarth, already an NAE and NAS member was elected to AAAS while Adleman added NAS and AAAS membership to his NAE honors.

"The work you have done is the kind to which we all aspire. It is profoundly rich and original in its theoretical implication," said Viterbi School Dean Yannis Yortsos, addressing the four. "And, in all cases, society has found practical, world-changing uses for it."

Yortsos was joined at the podium by Joseph Aoun, dean of the USC College, where Adleman, Hellwarth and Golomb hold joint appointments. The two deans paid tribute to each individual’s specific achievements, but also emphasized the extent to which the contributions of all exemplified the interdisciplinary ethos that has become profoundly part of the USC intellectual paradigm.

Aoun noted that the ideal was not a re-creation of the old idea of a single researcher being able to master multiple disciplines, in the mold of Leonardo da Vinci — knowledge and research have expanded beyond this point — but rather the ability and willingness to share skills with masters of other disciplines.

On hand to hear the presentations and intellectual jokes was a group that included all Viterbi School department chairs, numerous distinguished faculty members, along with representatives from the Provost's office, including Viterbi School faculty member Tom Katsouleas, interim head of ISD information services and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Garrett, along with Dean of Graduate Programs Jennifer Wolch.

The deans detailed, briefly, the career contributions of the four honorees, and gave each a commemorative plaques.

Leonard Adleman has achieved worldwide recognition for achievements in two widely separated areas. In 1977 at MIT, he along with Ron Rivest and Adi Shamir, developed an algorithm now known as the RSA Code. It freed commerce on the Internet by becoming the foundation for an entire generation of technology security products. Their work won them the A. M. Turing award in 2002, the highest award in computer science, and sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize in computing.” In 1994, by demonstrating that the DNA code could be used to carry out computations, Adleman, who holds the Henry Salvatori Chair, singlehandedly created to an entirely new academic field – molecular computing – and was elected to the NAE in 1996.

Solomon Golomb is renowned for developing a mathematical curiosity called shift register sequence into a robust tool that now underlies communications, cryptography, radar, cell phones and much more.  In 1961, it enabled the detection of extremely faint radar echoes bounced off the planet Venus.  In 1976, Golomb became the very first USC faculty member elected to the National Academy of Engineering.  Golomb is also an internationally known expert on mathematical games and a longtime mentor of Andrew Viterbi, who later endowed the Viterbi Chair of Engineering that Golomb now holds.
Robert Hellwarth
was part of the Hughes Research Laboratory team that created  the first laser in 1960, and subsequently became an early and continuing contributor to the new optics spawned by this development. He currently is working to understand and create materials for nonlinear optical devices. At USC he developed a new, and now widely employed, method for reversing the light-wave pattern of an optical image, a process called “optical beam phase conjugation.” His election in 1977 to the NAE cited his “major contributions to the understanding of quantum electronics and the invention of new laser devices.” Aoun paid tribute to the help Hellwarth gave to physicist Jack Feinberg when Feinberg had to master laser technology.
Andrew J. Viterbi, the USC Presidential Professor of Engineering who with his wife Erna named the Viterbi School, earned one of the first USC doctorates in electrical engineering.  He went on to create the Viterbi Algorithm, a groundbreaking mathematical formula for eliminating signal interference now used in all four international standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space telemetry.  The co-founder of QUALCOMM, he was elected to the NAE in 1978, to the NAS in 1996, and to the AAAS in 2001. His long list of professional honors includes the IEEE’s Shannon Lecture Award and its Alexander Graham Bell Medal.
Aoun had another honor to give at the close of the ceremony. Andrew Viterbi had wanted, Aoun said, to become a professor of Latin in the College, but his qualifications were, the dean said puckishly, somewhat thin in that department. As an alternative, he announced that Viterbi would be receiving an appointment in the College Department of Mathematics.