Andrew Viterbi

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.

Andrew J. Viterbi[1]
Andrea Giacomo Viterbi

(1935-03-09) March 9, 1935
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 to Italian Jewish family[2] in Bergamo, Italy and emigrated with them to the United States two years before World War II. 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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".[6] 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.[7] He is a member of the USC Board of Trustees.[8]

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".[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Personal life

Viterbi was married to Erna Finci (1934–2015),[12] who was a Jewish refugee from Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.[13] They had three children, Alan Viterbi, Audrey Viterbi,[13] and Alexander Viterbi (who died of a heart attack in Mammoth Lakes, California on November 2, 2011 at the age of 40).[14]


  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. Marziali, Carl (February 1, 2009). "Andrew Viterbi: He's got algorithm". University of Southern California News.
  3. Tekla S. Perry. "2010 Medal of Honor Winner: Andrew J. Viterbi".
  4. 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.
  5. "Ingenu Launches the US's Newest IoT Network". Light Reading.
  6. "Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation". IEEE Information Theory Society. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  7. "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.
  8. Board of Trustees Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine, University of Southern California, Retrieveded 2008-04-13.
  9. "IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  10. "Award Guide and Past Recipients". American Association of Engineering Societies. Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  11. "Qualcomm and Its Founders Recognized for Historic Electronics Milestone". IEEE. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  12. Vered Weiss, "Wife Of Qualcomm Founder, Philanthropist Erna Viterbi Dies At 81",, 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  13. Marziali, Carl (Spring 2015). "In Memorium: Philanthropist Erna Viterbi Dies at 81". University of Southern California News.
  14. 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

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
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