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Andrew Viterbi

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Title: Andrew Viterbi  
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Subject: Qualcomm, Irwin M. Jacobs, USC Viterbi School of Engineering, List of University of Southern California people, Bergamo
Collection: 1935 Births, American Communications Businesspeople, American Computer Scientists, American Engineers, American People of Italian Descent, American Philanthropists, Boston Latin School Alumni, Italian Jews, Living People, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni, Members of the United States National Academy of Engineering, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, People from Bergamo, Qualcomm, The Scripps Research Institute, University of Southern California Alumni
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Andrew Viterbi

Andrew J. Viterbi
Born (1935-03-09) March 9, 1935
Bergamo, Italy
Nationality Italian, American
Education Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS, MS)
University of Southern California (PhD)
Spouse(s) Erna Finci (m. 1958)
Children Alexander Viterbi (1971–2011)
Audrey Viterbi
Alan Viterbi
Engineering career
Engineering discipline Electrical
Institution memberships University of Southern California Board of Trustees
The Scripps Research Institute Board of Trustees, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute
Employer(s) Professor:
UC Los Angeles
UC San Diego
Linkabit Corporation
Qualcomm Inc.
The Viterbi Group
Significant projects Viterbi algorithm
Significant advance Code Division Multiple Access standard for cell phone networks
Significant awards IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal (1984)
Marconi Prize (1990)
Claude E. Shannon Award (1991)
National Medal of Science (2007)
IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award
IEEE Medal of Honor (2010)
John Fritz Medal (2011)

Andrew James Viterbi (born Andrea Giacomo Viterbi; March 9, 1935) is an 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.

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.


  • Education 1
  • Further career 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


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.[1]

Further career

After receiving his Ph.D., 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.[2] 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 Dr. 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.[3]

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".[4] 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.[5] He is a member of the USC Board of Trustees.[6]

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".[7]

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.[8]

Viterbi is married to Erna Finci, with whom he had three children. His son, Alexander, died of a heart attack at the age of 40 in November, 2011.[9]


  1. ^ Tekla S. Perry. "2010 Medal of Honor Winner: Andrew J. Viterbi". 
  2. ^ Viterbi, Andrew (1999-10-29). Andrew Viterbi, Electrical Engineer, an oral history. Interview with David Morton. IEEE Global History Network. San Diego, California, United States. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  3. ^ "Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network". Light Reading. 
  4. ^ "Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation".  
  5. ^ "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. 
  6. ^ Board of Trustees, University of Southern California, Retrieveded 2008-04-13.
  7. ^ "IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  8. ^ "Award Guide and Past Recipients".  
  9. ^ "Mammoth man died from heart attack". Sierra Wave: Eastern Sierra News. 

Further reading

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

External links

  • IEEE History Center Interview
  • The Quiet Genius, Trudy E. Bell (PDF)
  • Noteworthy alumni page at MIT
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Stephen O. Rice
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal
Succeeded by
Charles K. Kao
Preceded by
IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award
Succeeded by
Tim Berners-Lee
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