Qualcomm Co-Founder, Andrew Viterbi, Wins National Medal of Science For Key Wireless Innovation

9/30/08Follow @bvbigelow

Wireless pioneer and UC San Diego professor emeritus Andrew Viterbi received a National Medal of Science from President Bush in a White House ceremony Monday, in part for work that later became known as “the Viterbi algorithm.”

That might sound like a sequel to “The Bourne Ultimatum,” but the algorithm is actually used in virtually every cell phone today. Also known as the “maximum-likelihood algorithm for convolutional coding,” it is used to suppress radio interference and efficiently decode digital transmission sequences.

Viterbi also made important contributions to CDMA, the wireless technology shorthand for Code Division Multiple Access, which served as the foundation for San Diego-based Qualcomm and transformed the theory and practice of digital communications.

Viterbi is one of the founders of Linkabit, one of San Diego’s early startups and a co-founder of Qualcomm. One of Viterbi’s co-founders in both companies was Irwin Jacobs, who took home a National Medal of Science of his own in 1994.

Viterbi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT, and his Ph.D. in digital communications from the University of Southern California. In 2004, Andrew and Erna Viterbi committed $52 million to USC’s engineering school, which was renamed in their honor. He is currently a professor emeritus at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering and heads the Viterbi Group, a San Diego technical advisory and investment business.

President Bush told the recipients who gathered in the White House East Room that the setting was  appropriate for a ceremony honoring innovators for extending the frontiers of knowledge, because ”Thomas Jefferson reportedly used this room as a place to lay out his fossils.” A White House transcript of the event is here.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Hava Friedman

    I would like to interest Mr. Viterbi as a great philantrop, to consider suporting our Israeli singing group/Chavurat Zemer. I have been working on this prodject over a year and found the best professionnal conductor, Mrs. Raz, and many Israelis/jewish that whould like to participat in this art wonderful singing group. The problem is that it’s too expencive for us and many people can’t even pay the $10 dus each meeting. We meet every Monday in the music room of the J.C.C La-Jolla, and we are right now only 10-13 participants. We need a sponcer to suport us, somthing like $500 – $1000 a month. We are planing to perform in the soon future, and gradualy becoming independent. I hope it’s not to much of Chutzpa. Thanks Hava Firemdan (Chavurat Zemer organizer)