Andrew Viterbi

Andrew James Viterbi (born Andrea Giacomo Viterbi; March 9, 1935) is an Italian-born American electrical engineer and businessman who co-founded Qualcomm Inc. and invented the Viterbi algorithm. He is currently Presidential Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering, which was named in his honor in 2004 in recognition of his $52 million gift.

Andrew J. Viterbi[1]
Photo of Andrew Viterbi
Andrea Giacomo Viterbi

March 9, 1935 (age 83)
CitizenshipItalian, American
EducationMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS, MS)
University of Southern California (PhD)
Erna Finci
(m. 1958; died 2015)
ChildrenAlexander Viterbi (1971–2011)
Audrey Viterbi
Alan Viterbi
Engineering career
InstitutionsUniversity of Southern California Board of Trustees
The Scripps Research Institute Board of Trustees, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute
UC Los Angeles
UC San Diego
Linkabit Corporation
Qualcomm Inc.
The Viterbi Group
ProjectsViterbi algorithm
Significant advanceCode Division Multiple Access standard for cell phone networks
AwardsNAE (1978)
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal (1984)
Marconi Prize (1990)
Claude E. Shannon Award (1991)
National Medal of Science (2007)
IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal
IEEE Medal of Honor (2010)
John Fritz Medal (2011)

Early life

Viterbi was born in Bergamo, Italy to Italian Jewish parents and emigrated with them in 1939 to the United States as a refugee because of the Italian racial laws. His original name was Andrea, but when he was naturalized in the US, his parents anglicized it to Andrew.


Viterbi attended the Boston Latin School, and then entered MIT in 1952, studying electrical engineering. He received both BS and MS in electrical engineering in 1957 from MIT.

He worked at Raytheon and later at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where he started working on telemetry for guided missiles, also helping to develop the phase-locked loop. Simultaneously, he was carrying out a PhD study at the University of Southern California, where he graduated in 1963 in digital communications.[2]

Further career

After receiving his PhD, he applied successfully for an academic position at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Viterbi was later a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA and UCSD. In 1967 he proposed the Viterbi algorithm to decode convolutionally encoded data. It is still used widely in cellular phones for error correcting codes, as well as for speech recognition, DNA analysis, and many other applications of Hidden Markov models. On advice of a lawyer, Viterbi did not patent the algorithm.[3] Viterbi also helped to develop the CDMA standard for cell phone networks.

Viterbi was the cofounder of Linkabit Corporation, with Irwin Jacobs in 1968, a small military contractor. He was also the co-founder of Qualcomm Inc. with Jacobs in 1985. As of 2003, he is the president of the venture capital company The Viterbi Group. He continues to be involved in wireless communications technology companies as a strategic advisor to Ingenu's board of directors.[4]

USC-Viterbi School of Engineering
Viterbi School of Engineering, west wall

In 1998 he was one of the few receiving a Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation from the IEEE Information Theory Society. Viterbi earned it for "the invention of the Viterbi algorithm".[5] In 2002, Viterbi dedicated the Andrew Viterbi '52 Computer Center at his alma mater, Boston Latin School. On March 2, 2004, the University of Southern California School of Engineering was renamed the Viterbi School of Engineering in his honor, following his $52 million donation to the school.[6] He is a member of the USC Board of Trustees.[7]

He is also on the Board of Trustees at The Scripps Research Institute.

He is also founding member of ISSNAF (The Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation).

In 2005, he was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering.

Viterbi and Irwin M. Jacobs received the 2007 IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award, for "fundamental contributions, innovation, and leadership that enabled the growth of wireless telecommunications".[8]

In September 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for developing "the 'Viterbi algorithm', and for his contributions to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) wireless technology that transformed the theory and practice of digital communications".

In 2010, he received the IEEE Medal of Honor and in the same year he also received the IIC Lifetime Achievement Award by the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. In 2011, he received the John Fritz Medal from the American Association of Engineering Societies.[9]

In 2013, Viterbi was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In 2017, Viterbi, along with Irwin Jacobs, received the IEEE Milestone Award for their CDMA and spread spectrum development that drives the mobile industry.[10]

Personal life

Viterbi was married to Erna Finci (1934–2015),[11] with whom he had three children. On November 2, 2011, Viterbi's son, Alexander, died of a heart attack in Mammoth Lakes, California at the age of 40.[12]


  1. ^ Andrew Viterbi was elected in 1978 as a member of National Academy of Engineering in Electronics, Communication & Information Systems Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering
  2. ^ Tekla S. Perry. "2010 Medal of Honor Winner: Andrew J. Viterbi".
  3. ^ Viterbi, Andrew (1999-10-29). "Andrew Viterbi, Electrical Engineer, an oral history" (Interview). Interviewed by David Morton. San Diego, California, United States: IEEE Global History Network. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  4. ^ "Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network". Light Reading.
  5. ^ "Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation". IEEE Information Theory Society. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  6. ^ "Engineer/Entrepreneur and wife make $52 million naming gift to USC" (Press release). University of Southern California. Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  7. ^ Board of Trustees Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, University of Southern California, Retrieveded 2008-04-13.
  8. ^ "IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  9. ^ "Award Guide and Past Recipients". American Association of Engineering Societies. Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  10. ^ "Qualcomm and Its Founders Recognized for Historic Electronics Milestone". IEEE. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  11. ^ Vered Weiss, "Wife Of Qualcomm Founder, Philanthropist Erna Viterbi Dies At 81",, 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  12. ^ Kessler, Benett (November 10, 2011). "Mammoth man died from heart attack". Sierra Wave: Eastern Sierra News. Retrieved October 11, 2018.

Further reading

  • Brodsky, Ira. "The History of Wireless: How Creative Minds Produced Technology for the Masses" (Telescope Books, 2008)

See also

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Gerald J. Posakony
John Fritz Medal
Succeeded by
Leslie E. Robertson
Preceded by
Robert H. Dennard
IEEE Medal of Honor
Succeeded by
Morris Chang
Preceded by
Hyman Bass
National Medal of Science
Succeeded by
Leonard Kleinrock
Preceded by
IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal
Succeeded by
Tim Berners-Lee
Preceded by
Thomas M. Cover
Claude E. Shannon Award
Succeeded by
Elwyn Berlekamp
Preceded by
Robert N. Hall
Marconi Prize
Succeeded by
Paul Baran
Preceded by
Stephen O. Rice
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal
Succeeded by
Charles K. Kao

Andrea is a given name which is common worldwide, cognate to Andreas and Andrew.

It is traditionally popular because, according to the Christian Bible, Saint Andrew was one of the earliest disciples of Jesus and one of the twelve Apostles.

Charles Talbot Porter

Charles Talbot Porter (January 18, 1826 – August 28, 1910) was an American lawyer, engineer, and inventor of mechanical devices, particularly the high-speed steam engine. He was recipient of the 1909 John Fritz Medal.Born in Auburn, New York, Porter was the son of the John Porter, a lawyer and politician. He obtained his law degree from Hamilton College in 1845, started his career as lawyer, and grew out to be one of the foremost of modern American engineers of his days.

Claude E. Shannon Award

The Claude E. Shannon Award of the IEEE Information Theory Society was created to honor consistent and profound contributions to the field of information theory. Each Shannon Award winner is expected to present a Shannon Lecture at the following IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory. It is a prestigious prize in information theory, covering technical contributions at the intersection of mathematics, communication engineering, and theoretical computer science.

It is named for Claude E. Shannon, who was also the first recipient.

Edward Dean Adams

Edward Dean Adams (9 April 1846 – 20 May 1931) was an American businessman, banker, power broker and numismatist. He was the president of Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company which built the first hydroelectric power plants in Niagara Falls, New York, US. The Adams Power Plant Transformer House is named after him. He was “conspicuously successful in corporate reorganizations”.

Adams appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine on May 27, 1929.He also had wide cultural interests, including numismatics.

Frank B. Jewett

Frank Baldwin Jewett (; 5 September 1879 – 18 November 1949) worked as an engineer for American Telegraph and Telephone where his work demonstrated transatlantic radio telephony using a vacuum-tube transmitter. He was also a physicist and the first president of Bell Labs.

IEEE Medal of Honor

The IEEE Medal of Honor is the highest recognition of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It has been awarded since 1917, when its first recipient was Major Edwin H. Armstrong. It is given for an exceptional contribution or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. The award consists of a gold medal, bronze replica, certificate and honorarium. The Medal of Honor may only be awarded to an individual.

The medal was created by the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) as the IRE Medal of Honor. It became the IEEE Medal of Honor when IRE merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) to form the IEEE in 1963. It was decided that IRE's Medal of Honor would be presented as IEEE's highest award, while the Edison Medal would become IEEE's principal medal.

Ten persons with an exceptional career in electrical engineering received both the IEEE Edison Medal and the IEEE Medal of Honor, namely Edwin Howard Armstrong, Ernst Alexanderson, Mihajlo Pupin, Arthur E. Kennelly, Vladimir K. Zworykin, John R. Pierce, Sidney Darlington, Nick Holonyak, Robert H. Dennard, Dave Forney, and Kees Schouhamer Immink.

Irwin M. Jacobs

Irwin Mark Jacobs (born October 18, 1933) is an electrical engineer, a co-founder and former chairman of Qualcomm, and chair of the board of trustees of the Salk Institute.

Jim K. Omura

Jimmy K. Omura (born September 8, 1940 in San Jose, California) is an electrical engineer and information theorist.

Omura received his B.S. and M.S. from MIT, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA for 15 years. His notable work includes the design of a number of spread spectrum communications systems, and the Massey-Omura cryptosystem (with James Massey). With Andrew Viterbi he co-authored Principles of Digital Communication and Coding (ISBN 0070675163), a standard textbook in digital communications. He also co-authored the Spread Spectrum Communications Handbook (ISBN 0071382151).

Omura founded the data security company Cylink, which had an IPO in 1996 and was acquired by SafeNet in 2003. He was the Technology Strategist for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation during 2002 - 2011.

In 2005 Jim Omura received the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 and was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame in 2009.

John J. Carty

John Joseph Carty (April 14, 1861 – December 27, 1932) was an American electrical engineer and a major contributor to the development of telephone wires and related technology. He was a recipient of the Edison Medal. As Chief Engineer of AT&T, he was instrumental in the development of the first transcontinental telephone line. Carty was president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers from 1915 to 1916.


Linkabit was a technology company founded in 1968 by Irwin M. Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi and Leonard Kleinrock. Linkabit and alumni have created a large number of technology companies, most notably, Qualcomm. Linkabit is currently a division of L-3 Communications.

List of Italian Americans

This is a list of notable Italian Americans.

List of members of the National Academy of Sciences (computer and information sciences)

This list is a subsection of the List of members of the National Academy of Sciences, which includes approximately 2,000 members and 350 foreign associates of the United States National Academy of Sciences, each of whom is affiliated with one of 31 disciplinary sections. Each person's name, primary institution, and election year are given.

Marconi Society

The Guglielmo Marconi International Fellowship Foundation, briefly called Marconi Foundation and currently known as The Marconi Society, was established by Gioia Marconi Braga in 1974 to commemorate the centennial of the birth (April 24, 1874) of her father Guglielmo Marconi. The Marconi International Fellowship Council was established to honor significant contributions in science and technology, awarding the Marconi Prize and an annual $100,000 grant to a living scientist who has made advances in communication technology that benefits mankind.

The Marconi Fellows are Sir Eric A. Ash (1984), Paul Baran (1991), Sir Tim Berners-Lee (2002), Claude Berrou (2005), Sergey Brin (2004), Francesco Carassa (1983), Vinton G. Cerf (1998), Andrew Chraplyvy (2009), Colin Cherry (1978), John Cioffi (2006), Arthur C. Clarke (1982), Martin Cooper (2013), Whitfield Diffie (2000), Federico Faggin (1988), James Flanagan (1992), David Forney, Jr. (1997), Robert G. Gallager (2003), Robert N. Hall (1989), Izuo Hayashi (1993), Martin Hellman (2000), Hiroshi Inose (1976), Irwin M. Jacobs (2011), Robert E. Kahn (1994) Sir Charles Kao (1985), James R. Killian (1975), Leonard Kleinrock (1986), Herwig Kogelnik (2001), Robert W. Lucky (1987), James L. Massey (1999), Robert Metcalfe (2003), Lawrence Page (2004), Yash Pal (1980), Seymour Papert (1981), Arogyaswami Paulraj (2014), David N. Payne (2008), John R. Pierce (1979), Ronald L. Rivest (2007), Arthur L. Schawlow (1977), Allan Snyder (2001), Robert Tkach (2009), Gottfried Ungerboeck (1996), Andrew Viterbi (1990), Jack Keil Wolf (2011), Jacob Ziv (1995). In 2015, the prize went to Peter T. Kirstein for bringing the internet to Europe.

Since 2008, Marconi has also issued the Paul Baran Marconi Society Young Scholar Awards. Recipients are Himanshu Asnani (2014), Salman Abdul Baset (2008), Aleksandr Biberman (2010), Salvatore Campione (2013), Keun Yeong Cho (2012), Aakanksha Chowdhery (2012), Guilhem de Valicourt (2012), Felix Gutierrez Jr. (2009), Joseph Kakande (2011), Bill Ping Piu Kuo (2011), Rafael Laufer (2008), Domanic Lavery (2013), Joseph Lukens (2015), Diomidis Michalopoulos (2010), Marco Papaleo (2009), Ken Pesyna (2015), Eric Plum (2009), Yuan Shen (2010), Kiseok Song (2014), Sebastien Soudan (2009), Jay Kumar Sundararajan (2008), Kartik Venkat (2015), Eitan Yaakobi (2009), Ke Wang (2013), Yihong Wu (2011), and Hao Zou (2008).

In describing the mission and objective of the Foundation, Braga characterized the Fellowship as " that it does not reward a person for intellectual achievements alone, but seeks to recognize and sustain those spiritual aspirations that a creative thinker may wish to apply to the establishment of a better world in which to live".

Although Braga died in July 1996, the Marconi Society has continued to award the annual Marconi Prize and fellowship, which were first awarded in 1975. The Marconi Society also grants annual Marconi Society-Paul Baran Young Scholar Awards to young scientists who, by the time they turn 27, have made significant contributions in the fields of communication and information science. Originally, the Foundation was located at the Aspen Institute. In 1997, it relocated, by invitation, to Columbia University's Fu School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Mason's invariant

In electronics, Mason's invariant, named after Samuel Jefferson Mason, is a measure of the quality of transistors.

"When trying to solve a seemingly difficult problem, Sam said to concentrate on the easier ones first; the rest, including the hardest ones, will follow," recalled Andrew Viterbi, co-founder and former vice-president of Qualcomm. He had been a thesis advisee under Samuel Mason at MIT, and this was one lesson he especially remembered from his professor. A few years earlier, Mason had heeded his own advice when he defined a unilateral power gain for a linear two-port device, or U. After concentrating on easier problems with power gain in feedback amplifiers, a figure of merit for all three-terminal devices followed that is still used today as Mason's Invariant.

Paul Dyer Merica

Paul Dyer Merica (March 17, 1889 – October 20, 1957) was an American metallurgist, president of the International Nickel Company of Canada Ltd., now Vale Limited, inventor, and recipient of the 1938 John Fritz Medal.

Stephen O. Rice

Stephen "Steve" Oswald Rice (November 29, 1907 – November 18, 1986) was a pioneer in the related fields of information theory, communications theory, and telecommunications.

Timeline of information theory

A timeline of events related to information theory, quantum information theory and statistical physics, data compression, error correcting codes and related subjects.

1872 – Ludwig Boltzmann presents his H-theorem, and with it the formula Σpi log pi for the entropy of a single gas particle

1878 – J. Willard Gibbs defines the Gibbs entropy: the probabilities in the entropy formula are now taken as probabilities of the state of the whole system

1924 – Harry Nyquist discusses quantifying "intelligence" and the speed at which it can be transmitted by a communication system

1927 – John von Neumann defines the von Neumann entropy, extending the Gibbs entropy to quantum mechanics

1928 – Ralph Hartley introduces Hartley information as the logarithm of the number of possible messages, with information being communicated when the receiver can distinguish one sequence of symbols from any other (regardless of any associated meaning)

1929 – Leó Szilárd analyses Maxwell's Demon, showing how a Szilard engine can sometimes transform information into the extraction of useful work

1940 – Alan Turing introduces the deciban as a measure of information inferred about the German Enigma machine cypher settings by the Banburismus process

1944 – Claude Shannon's theory of information is substantially complete

1947 – Richard W. Hamming invents Hamming codes for error detection and correction (to protect patent rights, the result is not published until 1950)

1948 – Claude E. Shannon publishes A Mathematical Theory of Communication

1949 – Claude E. Shannon publishes Communication in the Presence of Noise – Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem and Shannon–Hartley law

1949 – Claude E. Shannon's Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems is declassified

1949 – Robert M. Fano publishes Transmission of Information. M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts – Shannon–Fano coding

1949 – Leon G. Kraft discovers Kraft's inequality, which shows the limits of prefix codes

1949 – Marcel J. E. Golay introduces Golay codes for forward error correction

1951 – Solomon Kullback and Richard Leibler introduce the Kullback–Leibler divergence

1951 – David A. Huffman invents Huffman encoding, a method of finding optimal prefix codes for lossless data compression

1953 – August Albert Sardinas and George W. Patterson devise the Sardinas–Patterson algorithm, a procedure to decide whether a given variable-length code is uniquely decodable

1954 – Irving S. Reed and David E. Muller propose Reed–Muller codes

1955 – Peter Elias introduces convolutional codes

1957 – Eugene Prange first discusses cyclic codes

1959 – Alexis Hocquenghem, and independently the next year Raj Chandra Bose and Dwijendra Kumar Ray-Chaudhuri, discover BCH codes

1960 – Irving S. Reed and Gustave Solomon propose Reed–Solomon codes

1962 – Robert G. Gallager proposes low-density parity-check codes; they are unused for 30 years due to technical limitations

1965 – Dave Forney discusses concatenated codes

1967 – Andrew Viterbi reveals the Viterbi algorithm, making decoding of convolutional codes practicable

1968 – Elwyn Berlekamp invents the Berlekamp–Massey algorithm; its application to decoding BCH and Reed–Solomon codes is pointed out by James L. Massey the following year

1968 – Chris Wallace and David M. Boulton publish the first of many papers on Minimum Message Length (MML) statistical and inductive inference

1970 – Valerii Denisovich Goppa introduces Goppa codes

1972 – Jørn Justesen proposes Justesen codes, an improvement of Reed–Solomon codes

1973 – David Slepian and Jack Wolf discover and prove the Slepian–Wolf coding limits for distributed source coding

1976 – Gottfried Ungerboeck gives the first paper on trellis modulation; a more detailed exposition in 1982 leads to a raising of analogue modem POTS speeds from 9.6 kbit/s to 33.6 kbit/s

1976 – Richard Pasco and Jorma J. Rissanen develop effective arithmetic coding techniques

1977 – Abraham Lempel and Jacob Ziv develop Lempel–Ziv compression (LZ77)

1989 – Phil Katz publishes the .zip format including DEFLATE (LZ77 + Huffman coding); later to become the most widely used archive container

1993 – Claude Berrou, Alain Glavieux and Punya Thitimajshima introduce Turbo codes

1994 – Michael Burrows and David Wheeler publish the Burrows–Wheeler transform, later to find use in bzip2

1995 – Benjamin Schumacher coins the term qubit and proves the quantum noiseless coding theorem

2008 – Erdal Arıkan introduces polar codes, the first practical construction of codes that achieves capacity for a wide array of channels

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

The Viterbi School of Engineering (formerly the USC School of Engineering) is located at the University of Southern California in the United States. It was renamed following a $52 million donation by Andrew Viterbi, co-founder of Qualcomm Inc. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering celebrated its 100th birthday in conjunction with the university's 125th birthday.

With over $135 million in external funding support, the school is among the nation's highest in volume of research activity. The Viterbi School of Engineering is currently ranked No. 10 in the United States by U.S. News and World Report.The school is headed by Dean Yannis Yortsos. Its research centers have played a major role in development of multiple technologies, including early development of the Internet when USC researcher Jonathan Postel was an editor of communications-protocol for the fledgling internet, also known as ARPANET. The school's faculty includes Irving Reed, Leonard Adleman, Solomon W. Golomb, Barry Boehm, Clifford Newman, Richard Bellman, Lloyd Welch, Alexander Sawchuk, and George V. Chilingar.

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