Andrew Viterbi

Dean’s Message Viterbi and Technion Partnership Andrew and Erna Viterbi Viterbi Day Press Room

Dr. Andrew J. Viterbi

On June 13, 2015, Dr. Andrew J. Viterbi, creator of the Viterbi Algorithm and the co-founder of Qualcomm Corporation, announced a $50 million gift to secure and enhance the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering in Israel and globally.

 Andrew Viterbi and his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, have a long history of supporting the Technion and Israel. Their gifts have included the Andrew J. and Erna F. Viterbi Chair in Information Systems/Computer Science, held by Prof. Oded Shmueli, and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Center for Advanced Studies in Computer Technology and the Andrew and Erna Finci Viterbi Fellowship Program.

Andrew Viterbi received a Technion Honorary Doctorate in 2000. He received the American Technion Society’s highest honor – the Albert Einstein Award – in 1993. He is a Technion Guardian, a designation reserved for those who have reached the highest level of support of the Technion.

He is a member of the Technion Board of Governors. He is a past member of both the ATS National Board of Directors and Board of Regents; past chapter president and chair of the ATS San Diego Chapter; and a past member of the ATS Western Region Board.

Dr. Viterbi has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Technion since 2000.

Ranked among the world’s top 10 electrical engineering departments, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering has been instrumental in advancing Israel’s high-tech industry and transforming the country into the “Start-up Nation.” It has paved the way for Israeli computer engineering, communications, microelectronics, optoelectronics, nanotechnology, and quantum technology.  

The Viterbi Algorithm allows rapid and accurate decoding of a plethora of overlapping signals, helping to eliminate signal interference. The mathematical formula is used in all four international standards for digital cellular telephones, as well as in data terminals, digital satellite broadcast receivers and deep space telemetry. Other applications include voice recognition programs and DNA analysis.

Andrew Viterbi is widely recognized as a brilliant entrepreneur, and corporate leader, who has forever changed how people everywhere connect and communicate. Together with Dr. Irwin Jacobs, he co-founded Linkabit, a telecommunications consulting company, and cell phone giant Qualcomm. Viterbi served as Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Qualcomm until his retirement in 2000.

Electrical engineering is a field of engineering that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering has now subdivided into a wide range of subfields including electronics, digital computers, power engineering, telecommunications, control systems, radio-frequency engineering, signal processing, instrumentation, and microelectronics.

Dr. Viterbi has received honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Italy and Israel, and received a wealth of other prestigious honors in Japan, Germany, Italy and the U.S. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Marconi Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in addition to belonging to a select group of scientists who hold dual memberships in the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. From 1997 until 2001, Dr. Viterbi served on the U.S. President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and, since 1983, has been active on the MIT Visiting Committee for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Andrew Viterbi has received numerous awards for his contributions to communications theory and its industrial applications, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Alexander Graham Bell Medal, the Marconi International Fellowship Award and the IEEE’s Shannon Award and Lecture, considered the highest honor in communication technology. In 2001, he was named a “Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica” by the President of Italy, and in 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President George W. Bush 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.”

Andrew Viterbi is an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California. His was one of the first doctorates in electrical engineering granted by USC (’62) in Electrical Engineering. In 2004, he and his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi, provided the naming gift for USC’s Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering. Other gifts to university include the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Chair in Communications, Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Executive Director Chair at the USC Shoah Foundation, and various scholarships in engineering and genocide studies.

Back story/Life History

When Andrew Viterbi was a child, his family fled Italy for America in 1939 to escape the persecution of the Jews. Long absences from family members instilled a desire to find ways of communicating across political and geographical borders.

The Viterbi family first settled in New York, then Boston. He entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1952, studying electronics and communications theory. In 1956, the new MIT graduate and his family moved to California, home to defense industry giants. He went to work at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, then a center for communications and satellite control systems, which soon became part of a new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was a key member of the team that designed the telemetry equipment for the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1. From his work at JPL, he developed the topic for his Ph.D. dissertation at USC.

While he was working in the communications research group at JPL, he met his future wife, Erna Finci. Mutual friends and Andrew’s cousins encouraged Erna and Andrew to go out on a date. Andrew Viterbi has said in interviews that Erna Vinci “was destined to be my wife.” They married in 1958, a year after Andrew began his association with USC by pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering while continuing his research at JPL.

Erna and Andrew Viterbi

Erna and Andrew Viterbi

Andrew and Erna Viterbi

Erna and Andrew Viterbi