Qualcomm Co-Founder Dr. Andrew Viterbi will be inducted into CONNECT’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, Thursday, March 19, joining fellow inductee and Qualcomm Co-Founder Dr. Irwin Jacobs. The award honors individuals who have achieved distinction for founding, leading, or advancing a life sciences or technology-based business or organization in San Diego.
Dr. Viterbi is best known for his contributions to the algorithm that bears his name, the Viterbi Algorithm, which has been called by some one of the most important mathematical concepts of the 20th century. Simply put, the algorithm is a means of separating information from background noise and is used to enable virtually all digital communications, including the world’s 6+ billion mobile phones, dial-up modems, 802.11 wireless LANs and even satellite and deep-space communications devices.
For someone that touches so much in our daily lives, Dr. Viterbi is surprisingly soft spoken and humble—in his own words, he “would rather remain in the background.” When reminded that the Viterbi Algorithm helped establish CDMA—the basis for the majority of 3G technologies used throughout the world—Viterbi insists that the algorithm is a “very small piece of the CDMA modem.” (With all respect Dr. Viterbi, whether or not it’s a small or large piece, we still say it’s a very important piece!)
Considered a “rock star” among the tech and business crowd, Dr. Viterbi ranks teaching and research as the most satisfying part of his distinguished working career. “Teaching is the best form of learning—you can’t teach unless you understand the material yourself. You may read it, and you may think you understand it… but until you have to go and explain it, you don’t really know it.”
Asked to distinguish the better of the two—teaching and research—Dr. Viterbi gives equal weight to each. “The real reason why I taught was to not only better understand the subject matter, but to get support for research. Both are necessary to move ideas forward—without research, you’d have nothing to teach. And by teaching you also recognize the gaps in your knowledge… and that leads to more research. The two are inseparable”