Legendary Stanford Professor Thomas Kailath Will Receive The Marconi Society Lifetime Achievement Award

Research Contributions over Six Decades have advanced Modern Communications Technologies

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, August 14, 2017 – The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, will honor Thomas Kailath with its Lifetime Achievement Award. It is only the sixth time in the society’s 43-year history that the award has been given.

The award recognizes Professor Kailath for his many transformative contributions to information and system science over six decades as well as his sustained mentoring and development of new generations of scientists. It acknowledges the wide range of his contributions to information theory, communications, filtering theory, linear systems and control, signal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, probability and statistics, linear algebra, matrix and operator theory, which have directly or indirectly advanced modern communications technology.

When Kailath was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2007, Stanford’s Dean, James Plummer, said, “Many of us have met individuals who have made deep contributions in specific technical fields, or had a major impact on industry, or had a major impact on their academic discipline or educated the leaders of the future. Tom is essentially unique in that he has done all of these things at the very highest levels.”

The most significant of Kailath’s many contributions include the characterization and identification of randomly varying communication channels, powerful capacity-achieving codes for feedback communications, and sophisticated algorithms for the detection of random signals in noise; a classic textbook in linear systems that changed the way that subject was taught; fast algorithms for recursive estimation; special purpose architectures for implementing signal processing algorithms on VLSI chips; novel high-resolution algorithms for direction finding and spectral estimation (which also led to the development of MIMO for wireless technology); and important breakthroughs in the fields of rapid thermal processing and optical lithography. Kailath and his students hold a dozen patents, and they have successfully transitioned some of the research into industry. Together with his students he co-founded four companies, two of which went public: Integrated Systems, Inc., founded in 1980 and now part of Intel, and in 1996, Numerical Technologies, Inc., acquired by Synopsis in 2003.

Prof. Kailath also fostered a rigorous intellectual research culture at Stanford, while mentoring a stellar array of over a hundred doctoral and postdoctoral scholars, many of whom have gone on to become leaders in academia and in industry. Over half are IEEE Fellows; John Cioffi and Arogyaswami Paulraj are also Marconi Fellows.

“I can’t think of anyone who was more influential in my own career than Tom,” says Cioffi. “I think of him as more of a father than simply an adviser. He continues to closely monitor and help his former students decades after they have graduated, always with their best interests being his only objective. I suspect there simply isn’t another academic group in electrical engineering history more successful than his has been.”

Another former student, Guanghan Xu, recently expressed his gratitude and admiration by funding a chaired professorship in engineering at Stanford in 2017 in Kailath’s honor.

A native of India, Kailath earned a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the College of Engineering, Pune, India. He came to MIT in 1957 with a research assistantship in the Information Theory Group and his work soon generated widespread notice. His publications in international journals and conferences while still a graduate student were widely acclaimed. After his doctorate in electrical engineering in June 1961, the first Indian-born student to get one at MIT, he was invited by the late Prof. Solomon Golomb to join the pioneering Digital Communications Research Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Kailath simultaneously held a visiting assistant professorship at Caltech.

In January 1963, he accepted an associate professorship at Stanford, becoming a full professor in 1968. He served as Director of the Information Systems Laboratory from 1971 through 1980, building it into a world-leading center for communications, control and signal processing research. He was Associate Chair of the Electrical Engineering Department Chair from 1981 to 1987 and in 1988 was appointed as the first holder of the Hitachi America Professorship in Engineering at Stanford. Although he became Emeritus in June 2001, he has been recalled to active duty, and he continues his research and writing activities to this day.

Kailath’s extraordinary career has earned him dozens of major awards and honors, notably a 2012 National Medal of Science from President Obama “for transformative contributions to the fields of information and system science, for distinctive and sustained mentoring of young scholars, and for translation of scientific ideas into entrepreneurial ventures that have had a significant impact on industry”. His 2007 IEEE Medal of Honor was “for exceptional contributions to the development of powerful algorithms for communications, control, computation and signal processing.”

Other major recognitions include the Shannon Award of the IEEE Information Theory Society; the IEEE Education Medal and the IEEE Kilby Signal Processing Medal; the 2009 BBVA Foundation Prize for Information and Communication Technologies; the Padma Bhushan (India’s third highest civilian award) from the President of India; election to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; foreign membership, among others, in the Royal Society of London, the Royal Spanish Academy of Engineering, and the Indian National Academies of Engineering and of Sciences. He has held Guggenheim, Churchill and Humboldt fellowships and received several honorary degrees, most recently from the Technion and the National Technical University of Athens. Over the years, Kailath also made significant contributions to probability and statistics, matrix and operator theory and linear algebra, recognized by his election as a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and of SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics).

Dr. Robert Lucky, former Bell Labs chief and chairman emeritus of the Marconi Society, says, “Awards become defined by the names of those who have won the award. In the case of the Marconi Society Lifetime Achievement Award, the award is given to a person whose name is immediately recognizable to most people in communication as someone who towers over the field — someone perhaps not appropriate for the Marconi Prize itself, but in another sense overqualified for it. Gordon Moore and Claude Shannon were such persons, and Tom Kailath is another. I’m proud to say that he is one of us. Moreover, he represents the best of us.”

Kailath will receive his award at the annual Marconi Society Awards dinner in Summit, New Jersey, where former Bell Labs President Arun Netravali will be honored with the $100,000 Marconi Prize. Netravali is regarded as the “father of digital video.”

About the Marconi Society

Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet, and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. Visit www.marconisociety.org for more information. Subscribe. Follow: Twitter and Facebook


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