Andrew Viterbi Gets National Medal of Science

08/25/08
Accolade announced by President Bush is the top honor given for science and technology.
Viterbi has received honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Italy and Israel.

President George W. Bush announced that USC trustee and namesake of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Andrew J. Viterbi is one of the recipients of the nation’s highest honor for science and technology, earning the National Medal of Science for 2007. The awards are for 2007 but are announced now, as is customary for these designations.

Viterbi, who also holds the USC Presidential Chair within the USC Viterbi School, was one of eight individuals selected for the honor.

“It’s thrilling to know that one of the intellectual giants of our time is also one of USC’s most faithful alumni and wisest trustees,” said USC President Steven B. Sample.

“Few people in any field can say that they have truly enhanced the world in which we live. Andrew Viterbi is one of the few, one of the elite, whose intellect and imagination have helped advance human understanding. This is a tremendous honor for Andy and a well-deserved recognition of his historic accomplishments.”

The National Medal of Science honors individuals for pioneering scientific research in a range of fields, including physical, biological, mathematical, social, behavioral and engineering sciences that enhances our understanding of the world and leads to innovations and technologies that give the United States its global economic edge. The National Science Foundation administers the award, which was established by Congress in 1959.

In 2006, University Professor Kevin Starr earned the National Humanities Award and in 2007 USC Thornton School of Music professor Morten Lauridsen was awarded the National Medal of Arts. USC is the only university to claim all three in the past three years.

Viterbi co-founded QUALCOMM Inc., a developer and manufacturer of mobile satellite communications and digital wireless telephony. Prior to co-founding QUALCOMM, Viterbi co-founded LINKABIT Corp., a digital communications company.

He served as a professor at the UCLA School of Engineering and Applied Science until 1973 and continued teaching on a part-time basis at the University of California, San Diego until 1994, where he is currently a professor emeritus.

Prior to that, Viterbi was a member of the communications research section of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, where he was one of the first communication engineers to recognize the potential of digital transmission techniques for space and satellite telecommunication systems.

Today all four international standards for digital cellular telephony utilize the Viterbi algorithm for interference suppression, as do most digital satellite communication systems.

Viterbi earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from MIT in 1957 and his Ph.D. from USC in 1962. He has received honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Italy, and Israel and has been otherwise honored in Japan, Germany, Italy and the United States.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Marconi fellow, a Franklin Medalist and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has served on the U.S. President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and was awarded a title by the president of Italy.

In 2004 Andrew and Erna Viterbi committed $52 million to USC’s engineering school, which was renamed in their honor. He has served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2000.

“It is difficult to run out of superlatives to describe Andy Viterbi and the impact that he has had during his long and wondrous American journey,” said USC Provost C. L. Max Nikias.

“Andy has been an engineer with the utmost skill and an innovator of the highest order. His entrepreneurial sense is remarkable, as is his vision for how to change how we work and live. He has been a philanthropist of incredible character and generosity who has been committed to helping others achieve the kind of remarkable success that he and his wife Erna have achieved.

Said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos: “Andrew Viterbi’s creative genius in wireless communications has had a profound impact on society, our ability to communicate globally and has made the world a much better place. It has led to unprecedented global transformations and has paved the way for a truly flat world. He is a great role model for academic excellence, entrepreneurship and philanthropy and a powerful inspiration for faculty and students at the USC Viterbi School. We are immensely proud for his extraordinary honor.”

For more information about the National Medal of Science, visit www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/nms/medal.htm