Information theory pioneer
Life Fellow, 73; died 26 March
Thomas Cover, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, made important contributions to information theory.
He joined Stanford’s School of Engineering faculty in 1964 and became a professor of electrical engineering and statistics in 1972. The following year, he introduced the groundbreaking concept of superposition of signals in broadcast channels—which made possible the simultaneous transmission of information from one transmitter to several receivers. That breakthrough played a major role in many data-compression algorithms used in wireless communications.
In 1980, Cover applied his research in statistics to the stock market. He published a series of papers on mathematical approaches to investment strategy drawn from information theory principles. One of his prominent investment strategies is the universal portfolio, which relies on an algorithm based on information from the past to choose which stocks will be most profitable in the future.
Cover’s expertise in game theory led to an eight-year stint as a statistician for the California State Lottery, a position he held while on the Stanford faculty. From 1986 to 1994, he designed tests for lottery balls and wheels, analyzed games’ payoff structures, and devised ways to beat the lottery in order to anticipate and prevent fraud.
He was director of Stanford’s Information Systems Laboratory from 1988 to 1996. In 1999, he helped write Elements of Information Theory, considered by many to be the benchmark college textbook on the subject.
Cover, a member of the IEEE Information Theory Society, received the society’s 1990 Claude E. Shannon Award, its highest honor, for lifetime achievement. In 1997 he received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal for “fundamental work in information theory, statistics, and pattern recognition.” He was also a member of the IEEE Communications Society.
He received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1960 from MIT and earned master’s and doctoral degrees, both in electrical engineering, from Stanford in 1961 and 1964.
Signal processing engineer
Life Fellow, 92; died 17 May
Arthur Fong was a signal processing engineer at Hewlett-Packard for 50 years.
He began his career in 1943 at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory, where he worked during World War II on the development of radar. In 1946, he left to join HP in Palo Alto, Calif. There he developed signal generators and the industry’s first calibrated spectrum analyzer, instruments that became basic test and measurement tools for electronics. In 1964 he was promoted to senior staff engineer—the company’s highest title in the technical department. He retired in 1996.
Fong received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1943 from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1968 from Stanford.
Underwater acoustics researcher
Life Member, 69; died 11 July
William Carey was a pioneer in underwater acoustics.
He worked at Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois, from 1974 to 1979. During the next three decades, he worked as a physicist for several organizations, including the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, in Newport, R.I., and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in Arlington, Va. He was a consultant to industry and government in the areas of applied ocean acoustics as well as nondestructive testing, nuclear science, and environmental measurements. From 1997 to 1999 he was a professor in MIT’s ocean engineering department, teaching graduate courses in acoustics.
He left MIT in 1999 to become a mechanical engineering professor at Boston University. His research focused on the design and performance of underwater acoustic antenna arrays, widely used in tracking submarines and exploring the marine environment.
A member of the IEEE Computer and IEEE Oceanic Engineering societies, Carey served as editor of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. In 2004 he received the Oceanic Engineering Society’s Distinguished Service Award. He also received the 2007 Acoustical Society of America’s Pioneer of Underwater Acoustics Silver Medal for “contributions to understanding ocean ambient noise and defining the limits of acoustical array performance in the ocean.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1965 from Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.