Indian Scientist Wins Marconi Lifetime Prize

Thomas Kailath

By The Times of India

Kailath Honoured For Tech Work Over 60 Yrs

Thomas Kailath, who grew up in Pune and is now an emeritus professor at Stanford, has been conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the US-based Marconi Society .This is only the sixth time the lifetime award has been given by the prestigious society in its 43-year history.

Earlier recipients have included Claude Shannon, regarded as the `father of information theory’ and Gordon Moore of `Moore’s Law’ fame.

Kailath has been recognised for his contributions to information and system science over six decades, as well as his sustained mentoring and development of new generations of scientists. Among his many significant contributions is a classic textbook in linear systems that changed the way that subject was taught.

Kailath during his convocation address at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, in 2011, where he asked students not to ignore major societal challenges in pursuit of pure science.

Kailath and his doctoral student Arogyaswami Paulraj, currently emeritus professor in the electrical engineering department at Stanford University , are joint holders of the original US patent for MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology which underpins the technology that drives every wi-fi, 4G, and 5G network today and helps to make them more efficient.

The legendary scientist was born in 1935 in Pune, to a Malayalam-speaking family, according to Wikipedia. He studied at St Vincent’s High School, Pune, and received his engineering degree from the Government College of Engineering, University of Pune, in 1956. He received his Master’s degree in 1959 and his doctorate degree in 1961, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Tech nology (MIT). He was the first Indian student to receive a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT, says Wikipedia.

The Marconi prize has been instituted by the Marconi Society , which was established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio. The society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the internet.Past winners of the prize have included a host of industry pioneers including Vint Cerf, known as the `father of the internet’, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Previous winners of Indian origin have been educationist and former UGC chairman Yash Pal in 1980 and Stanford University emeritus professor and Kailath’s doctoral student Arogyaswami Paulraj in 2014. In June, the Marconi Society announced that Arun Netravali, the engineer-scientist who grew up in Mumbai and pioneered work on video compression standards, is the awardee for this year.

Kailath and Netravali will be awarded their respective prizes in October.

A release from Marconi Society quoted Paulraj as saying: “Thomas Kailath has been an influential mentor to a number of Indian academics, including me, who worked in communications and control theory. He hosted many of us at his research group at Stanford University , even in lean times when federal funding was tight.

“Tom has maintained close linkages with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for over thirty years and in the 1970s, also advised the ministry of defence in setting up the research centres at the IITs to support the Air Defence Ground Environment System (ADGES) plan of the Indian Air Force.“

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2009. US president Barack Obama presented him the National Medal of Science in 2012.

Along with his students, Kailath co-founded four companies, two of which went public: Integrated Systems, founded in 1980 and now part of Intel, and in 1996, Numerical Technologies, which got acquired by Synopsys in 2003.