David Forney awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor

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December 9, 2015

Institute for Data, Systems, and Society | MIT News

Highest award bestowed by IEEE honors exceptional contributions to the field of data communications.

G. David Forney

Photo: G. David Forney


G. David Forney, Jr., adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Laboratory of Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), will receive the 2016 Institute of Electrical and Electronics (IEEE) Medal of Honor, the highest award bestowed by the IEEE.

Forney has had an exceptional career in data communications, both industrial and academic. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1961, and an ScD from MIT in 1965, under the supervision of Jack Wozencraft and Bob Gallager. His thesis was published as an MIT Press monograph in 1966.

After graduation, Forney went to work for Codex Corporation, a startup founded to exploit error-correcting codes invented by Bob Gallager and Jim Massey at MIT. At Codex, he designed the first coding system to go into space, involving a convolutional code with sequential decoding, for a NASA Pioneer deep-space mission in 1968. In 1970, he designed the first "modern" high-speed (9600 bps) QAM telephone-line modem, which was the foundation of Codex's commercial success, and which became the international V.29 9600 bps modem standard. He was vice president of research and development and a director of Codex at the time of its acquisition by Motorola in 1977. At Motorola, he served as Information Systems Group vice president, and as a vice president of the technical staff until his retirement in 1999. He has been an adjunct professor at MIT since 1996.

Forney has written many prize-winning papers on information theory, coding, modulation, and equalization, and has been active in the IEEE Information Theory Society. He was editor of the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory during 1970-73; co-chair (with Bob Gallager) of the Golden Jubilee IEEE Symposium on Information Theory at MIT in 1998; and twice president of the IEEE Information Theory Society, in 1992 and 2008.

Forney received the 1992 IEEE Edison Medal, and the 1995 IEEE Information Theory Society Claude E. Shannon Award. He was elected a fellow of the IEEE in 1973, a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1983, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2003.

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