Andrew J. Viterbi is one of the most important of the group of scientists and entrepreneurs whose revolutionary and creative work in the late 20th century ushered in the digital age. His most famous discovery, the Viterbi Algorithm, is a mathematical system for retrieving the original voice or data message from a coded digital stream and is used in all the world's major cell phone standards. Viterbi is also one of the creators of the spread spectrum standard used in cell phones, Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA.
A native of Italy whose family immigrated to the U.S. when he was four years old, Viterbi attended public schools in Boston graduating from Boston Latin School in 1952. He earned both B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Even before he received his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California in 1962, Viterbi distinguished himself when he was singled out in Life magazine as one of the bright young scientists at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab, which answered Sputnik's wake-up call to launch Explorer I.
Viterbi not only had an extraordinarily prolific academic career beginning at UCLA, but he simultaneously excelled as a business entrepreneur. He co-founded two hugely successful companies, Linkabit, which marketed digital technologies based on the Viterbi Algorithm, and the San Diego cell phone technology giant, Qualcomm.
Viterbi fell in love and married Erna Finci in 1958. She became his equal lifetime partner, sharing in all major decisions and she was usually by his side as he scribbled notes on communication theory at home or at family gatherings. The Finci and the Viterbi families both fled anti-Semitic oppression in World War II.
Since Andrew Viterbi stepped down as vice chairman and chief technology officer at Qualcomm in 2000 when he was 65, the Viterbis have devoted their lives to philanthropy and providing counsel and investment to startup high-tech companies. In March of 2004, the Viterbis named the USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering with a $52 million gift, the largest ever to name an existing engineering school.
Andrew Viterbi is a trustee of the University of Southern California and a USC Presidential Professor. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2008, he was named a laureate for the Millennium Technology Prize, and was also awarded the 2007 National Medal of Science by the President of the United States.
Andrew Viterbi currently serves as president of the Viterbi Group, LLC, founded in 2000. He and Erna live in La Jolla, Calif. They have two sons and a daughter and several grandchildren.
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