Medal of Honor Goes to G. David Forney Jr.

The Life Fellow developed error-correcting codes for NASA’s Pioneer deep-space satellite program

10 March 2016

Life Fellow G. David Forney Jr. will receive the 2016 IEEE Medal of Honor “for pioneering contributions to the theory of error-correcting codes and the development of reliable high-speed data communications.”

Forney began his career in Watertown, Mass., at Codex Corp., one of the first companies to focus on finding practical applications for information theory. He developed error-correcting codes in the late 1960s for NASA’s Pioneer deep-space satellite program. In 1970, he designed the first modern high-speed quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) telephone-line modem, which became an international standard.

He was vice president of R&D at Codex when it was acquired by Motorola in 1977, and he continued to serve as a Motorola vice president until he retired in 1999. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, as well as a researcher in the school’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems.

Forney served as president of the IEEE Information Theory Society in 1992 and 2008 and as editor in chief of the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory from 1970 to 1973.

The IEEE Foundation sponsors the Medal of Honor. Forney is to receive the award on 18 June in New York City at the annual IEEE Honors Ceremony.

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