IEEE Honors Ceremony Recognizes Innovators

DSL and the Internet pioneers among recipients

2 August 2010

The "fathers" of DSL and the Internet were among the pioneers celebrated at the 2010 IEEE Honors Ceremony. The event recognizes individuals and companies from the engineering community for their outstanding accomplishments. This year, 21 medals and recognitions were presented to 27 innovative individuals, including the pioneers of many of today's most important technologies. The ceremony, held on 26 June at the Le Windsor banquet hall in Montreal, was broadcast live on, where you can still view it in its entirety.

IEEE president and CEO Pedro A. Ray and IEEE president-elect Moshe Kam were the event's hosts.

"Tonight's honorees have made fundamental, intellectual, and practical contributions that affect major areas of human welfare as well as the environment," Ray said.

"It is an honor to recognize those who have made and continue to make extraordinary advances in IEEE's fields of interest," added Kam, who pointed out that many of this year's awards went to technologies originally unveiled at an IEEE conference or published for the first time in its journals.

The evening's top award, the IEEE Medal of Honor, went to Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm and a cofounder of Qualcomm, in San Diego, a developer of commercial CDMA wireless technology. A major breakthrough in wireless technology, the algorithm is now used in most digital cellular phones and satellite receivers, as well as for voice recognition and DNA sequence analysis.

"I'm humbled by this award," Viterbi said, adding that after winning the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Award 26 years ago, he never thought he would also receive the Medal of Honor. "Looking over the list of previous winners of this award, I have to say I stood on the shoulders of giants in accomplishing my work."

Today, he is president of Viterbi Group, in San Diego, which invests in startup companies in wireless communications and network infrastructure.

IEEE Fellow John M. Cioffi, considered by many in the field as the "father of DSL," was honored with the 2010 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal "for pioneering discrete multitone modem technology as the founder of the global DSL industry." In his remarks accepting the award, Cioffi thanked his wife, Assia, for her support, which he likened to the support Bell received from his wife.

"Alexander Graham Bell's greatest promoter was his wife," he said. "She helped finance his ideas, and Mabel Bell became known as Ma Bell. She was the force behind the Bell system." Cioffi was a product of Bell Labs, and he credited Bellcore with financing his DSL research at Stanford University, work that today is responsible for two-thirds of the world's high-speed Internet connections. In 2003 Cioffi founded ASSIA Inc., named after his wife, and he serves as chairman and CEO of the Redwood City, Calif., company, which builds management systems for DSL service providers.

Introduced by Ray as a philanthropist and entrepreneurial role model, IEEE Life Fellow Ray Dolby was honored with the 2010 IEEE Edison Medal "for leadership and pioneering applications in audio recording and playback equipment for both professional and consumer electronics."

"It's been a long road, but here I am after all these years," Dolby said. He is currently a member of the board at the company he founded, Dolby Laboratories of San Francisco.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of India's Infosys Technologies, in Bangalore, received the IEEE Honorary Membership for performing meritorious service to humanity. He spoke with great humility when he said of the IEEE, "Your kindness, your generosity, and your affection will motivate us to work harder, and definitely smarter."

Three new IEEE medals were presented this year. The IEEE Medal in Power Engineering went to IEEE Life Fellow Prabha S. Kundur for his leadership in the design and operation of large-scale power systems. Kundur is president of Kundur Power Systems Solutions of Toronto.

"I feel truly honored to accept this medal. IEEE has been a very important part of my professional life for over 40 years," said Kundur, who presented his first paper at an IEEE conference 43 years ago.

The three people responsible for shepherding the environmental assessment program that sets standards for manufacturers producing "green" electronics were recognized with the IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies. What became known as EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) got its start as IEEE Std. 1680, IEEE Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products, Including Laptop Personal Computers, Desktop Personal Computers, and Personal Computer Monitors which was renamed in March to IEEE Standard for Environmental Assessment of Electronic Products.

The award was shared by Larry Chalfan, recently retired as executive director of the environmental advocacy group Zero Waste Alliance; Viccy Salazar, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 10 Materials Management and Stewardship Team; and Wayne Rifer, director of standards and operations with the trade association, Green Electronics Council.

"The work we did has created a better future for our children and our grandchildren," Chalfan said.

Ronald Nutt and David William Townsend were the recipients of the IEEE Medal for Innovations in Healthcare Technology for their invention of the hybrid positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scanner, which has helped physicians find cancer in their patients. Nutt is the chairman of Advanced Biomarker Technologies of Knoxville, Tenn. Townsend is head of PET and SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) development for the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium under the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research. He also is a professor of radiology at the National University of Singapore.

"For the past 10 years, the death rate from cancer in the United States has decreased," he pointed out. "The National Institutes of Health have identified three factors that made this decrease possible: early detection, proper treatment, and cessation of smoking. Our technology contributed to the first two of those factors."

The Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Eminent Member Recognition, a distinction granted to 122 individuals since 1950, was presented to Vinton G. Cerf, a Google vice president and its chief Internet evangelist. He is considered to be the father of the Internet, having coauthored the first paper about what would eventually become the Internet in the May 1974 issue of IEEE Transactions on Communications.

"Things like the Internet don't happen unless literally millions of people want it to happen," Cerf said. "That's really the joy of the Internet: its openness and its ability to absorb so much talent."

Visit the IEEE Web site for the complete list of this year's award recipients. You can watch a 10-minute interview and profile of Andrew Viterbi on

Student Scientists Recognized for Helping to Better the World
Students helping to make the world a better place were honored at the 2010 IEEE Honors Ceremony as winners of the second annual IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition.

The program recognizes students who have solved real-world problems using engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills.

The first-place prize and its US $10 000 award went to students from Imperial College London who created the e.quinox project, a hydro-powered generator that brought power to 60 households in a remote Rwandan village.

"They have brought new economic opportunities to the area and created a scalable and economical alternative to the traditional grid structure," IEEE president Pedro A. Ray said. The award comes with the title "Student Humanitarian Supreme," and MIT Lincoln Laboratory's Ceres Connection will name an asteroid in their honor. The Ceres Connection is a cooperative program between the laboratory and the non-profit Society for Science and the Public, in Washington, D.C., to promote science education by naming asteroids after outstanding students and teachers.

Students from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California received the second-place prize, US $5000, and the title of "Distinguished Student Humanitarian," for their invention of Dr. Algae, a portable test system that uses algae as a bio-indicator to identify the presence of heavy-metal pollution in water, as well as detect organic and non-organic wastes, in as little as 20 minutes. It has the potential to reduce health threats to millions around the world.

Third place went to students from Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia, who received US $2500 and the title "Exceptional Student Humanitarian" for another hydro-powered generator project, called Palapa, which means "fruits of labor" in Indonesian. The project brought power to four remote villages not previously connected to an electric grid.


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