Solomon Golomb to receive Franklin Medal for work in digital communications

Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking and USC’s Andrew Viterbi are previous recipients of the prestigious honor

November 12, 2015 Amy Blumenthal

Solomon Golomb, University Professor, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics, and holder of the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Chair in Communications, has been selected to receive the Franklin Institute’s 2016 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. The award will be presented at a ceremony in April 2016.

With this award, Golomb will join the ranks of previous Franklin Medal recipients and distinguished laureates, which include Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, Elizabeth Blackburn and Andrew Viterbi PhD ’62, the alumnus for whom the USC engineering school is named.

Golomb is being honored for his work in space communications and the design of digital spread spectrum signals — transmissions that provide security, interference suppression and precise locations for applications such as cryptography, missile guidance, defense, space and cellular communications, radar, sonar and GPS.

When Golomb first studied mathematics, the discipline was expected to remain pure without application. However, on occasion, an engineer would come to Golomb with a practical problem, and Golomb would have the mathematical tools to provide the solution. Golomb was most satisfied when his ideas were used.

“The more usable an application was, the more satisfied I was,” he said.

From JPL to USC

Golomb started his career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where his team invented space communications and digital communications. He started at USC in 1963 and has been at the university for more than 50 years. His work on shift register sequences is integral to the function of cellphones, and Golomb is the author of the first book with a title that included the term “digital communications.” His scholarship in that discipline would help establish USC as a destination for the study of the subject.

His pioneering work in communications has been fundamental to the communications revolution of the past five decades.

Yannis C. Yortsos

“It is extremely fitting that Sol Golomb is being awarded with the Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. His pioneering work in communications has been fundamental to the communications revolution of the past five decades, a revolution that has literally changed the world,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. “His legacy will remain in history as that of one of the giants in the discipline. We are fortunate that so much of his remarkable work was done here at USC in his more than five decades of affiliation with the School of Engineering.”

Golomb received the USC Presidential Medallion in 1985 and the National Medal of Science in 2011. He holds a joint appointment in the Department of Mathematics at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.