Andrew J. Viterbi (Ph.D. USC EE, 1962)
At the Convocation of Professional Engineering Societies and the NAE on May 16, 2011, Viterbi was presented with the John Fritz Medal of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), “for innovations and achievements in information and communications systems, and for discovering the Viterbi Algorithm.” All four international standards for digital cellular telephony utilize the Viterbi algorithm for interference suppression, as do most digital satellite communication systems, both for business applications and for direct satellite broadcast to the home.
In late fall, he will receive the International Medal of the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), which is “awarded occasionally to an individual outside of the European Union for his or her outstanding and sustained personal achievement in the broad field of engineering, including commercial or academic leadership or for specific products and/or projects.”
Viterbi will also be inducted to the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) on October 25, 2011, for “vital contributions to the products and services that consumers value” and that are at the core of the nation and its economy.
The AAES John Fritz Medal
There are hundreds of professional engineering societies in the United States alone and many more around the world. With its 13 member organizations representing local and global chapters, the AAES could be dubbed the engineering society’s society. It is the umbrella organization of the major U.S. engineering associations whose members include IEEE, ASME, ASCE, AIChE and others.
In offering its members a variety of professional benefits, AAES “unites the engineering community and facilitates its constructive involvement in national and international issues where engineering could contribute to a better life for humankind.”
Named by some the highest award in the engineering profession, the AAES-sponsored John Fritz Medal is presented for scientific or industrial achievement in any field of pure or applied science. It was established in 1902, for the renowned mechanical and metallurgical engineer. The first to introduce to the United States steel industry the Bessemer process for mass production, Fritz also developed the open-hearth furnace used in making steel.
Viterbi joins a distinguished roster of medalists, including Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Alfred Nobel, Orville Wright, Guglielmo Marconi, Theodore Von Karman and Vannevar Bush. In more recent decades, others including Stephen Bechtel, Igor Sikorsky, David Packard, Claude Shannon, Simon Ramo, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore received the honor.
The Royal Academy’s International Medal
Originally named The Fellowship of Engineering at its inception in 1976, the gathering of Britain’s most prominent engineers became the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1992. Like other institutions, the UK Academy’s principles rest on its mission to “provide key contributions to a strong and vibrant engineering sector and to the health and wealth of society.”
The International Medal was introduced in 2006, to commemorate the Academy’s 30th anniversary. The list of recipients to receive this rare honor includes Abdul Kalam, former President of India, Xu Kuangdi, former Mayor of Shanghai, and now Andrew Viterbi.
The CEA Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame
The CEA, a key industry source for market knowledge, training, networking, commercial exposure and more, has grown rapidly with the electronics industry, currently bringing together about 2000 businesses.
As its name implies, the CEA’s Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame is an entity that draws attention to the pioneers of radio, television and telephony, as well as recent contributors to high tech gadgetry and consumer services. Unlike the museums housing tributes to athletes and musicians, this hall of fame’s venue is the annual CEA Industry Forum.
Introduced in 2000, the CE Hall of Fame now lists 156 members and includes engineers and inventors, executives, retailers, journalists and other industry leaders. Those inducted in recent years include GPS inventors Ivan Getting and Bradford Parkinson; Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen; Masaharu Matsushita of Panasonic fame and – well – you get the idea.
A Career Spanning Academia, Industry and Service
Viterbi received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957, and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1962.
With his USC engineering doctorate in hand, Viterbi joined the Communications Research Section of the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While there from 1957 to 1963, he was one of the first to recognize the potential of – and propose digital transmission techniques for – space and satellite telecommunication systems.
He left JPL and re-entered academia, joining the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1963 to 1973, where he conducted fundamental research in digital communication theory and wrote two books that garnered international distinction. He served a part-time faculty appointment at the University of California, San Diego until 1994, where he is now professor emeritus. Viterbi received other academic appointments coming into the new millennium from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (2001), where he was named a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering, and from the USC Department of Electrical Engineering, where he was awarded the President’s Chair.
While at UCLA, Viterbi co-founded the Linkabit Corporation (1968) with Irwin Jacobs and Leonard Kleinrock, ultimately serving that digital communications company as its executive vice president and later its president.
In 1985, Viterbi co-founded Qualcomm, Incorporated, a developer and manufacturer of mobile satellite communications and digital wireless telephony. He was Qualcomm’s chief technology officer until 1996, and vice chairman until 2000. Under Viterbi’s leadership, Qualcomm received international recognition for innovative technology in the areas of digital wireless communication systems and products based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technologies.
For his leadership and substantial contributions to communications theory and its industrial applications over the years, Viterbi has received many honors. He received the 2007, National Medal of Science, and was appointed a Millennium Technology laureate by the Technology Academy of Finland in 2008. He holds honorary doctorates from universities in the U.S., Canada, Cyprus, Italy and Israel and has been otherwise honored in Japan and Germany. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and of the Marconi International Foundation. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 1997 to 2001, he was a member of the U.S. President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. He is a USC trustee, a board member of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and a trustee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California.
Viterbi is currently president of the Viterbi Group, LLC. Established in 2000, the company advises and invests predominantly in wireless communications, network infrastructure and imaging startup businesses. In this role, Andrew J. Viterbi nurtures the development of promising work that will change the world for the better, as he has done.