Pictured above: (L to R) Dist. Prof. Jacob Ziv and Dist. Visiting Prof. Andrew Viterbi.

A brilliant engineer who left his mark on cellular phone technology, satellite imagery, and DNA analysis. A talented entrepreneur who launched a multinational corporation. A devoted professor who developed one of the most important mathematical concepts of the 21st century.

Any one of these accomplishments would be outstanding and laudable in its own right. Yet only in the Technion family could you find someone who can proudly claim he has accomplished all of these things: Andrew Viterbi.

Distinguished Visiting Professor  Viterbi is widely recognized as a brilliant entrepreneur and corporate leader who has forever changed how people everywhere connect and communicate.  Together with Dr. Irwin Jacobs, he co-founded Linkabit, a telecommunications consulting company, and cell phone giant Qualcomm. He developed the Viterbi Algorithm, which allows rapid and accurate decoding of a plethora of overlapping signals, helping to eliminate signal interference.

But in addition to his many professional accomplishments and accolades, Prof. Viterbi is dedicated to supporting Israel by investing in Israel’s young people. To do that, he partnered with the Technion — first as a lecturer in 1967, then as a member of the Board of Governors, recipient of an honorary doctorate, and generous donor.

Yet one of his most significant roles has been that of a friend and mentor to Technion faculty, post-doctoral scholars, and students — and it is through that work that he met Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv (emeritus).

Prof. Ziv completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the Technion and received his doctorate from MIT  before joining the Technion faculty in 1970. He met Prof. Viterbi early in his tenure and the pair became fast friends.

Over five decades, the friendship of Prof. Viterbi served as an inspiration to Prof. Ziv. Like his friend, Prof. Ziv would develop groundbreaking algorithms of his own: the Wyner-Ziv Algorithm, which allows for the compression of many images from different cameras and for their simultaneous transmission, and the Lempel-Ziv Algorithm. The Lempel-Ziv Algorithm now serves as the basis for essential file compression technologies currently used in memory devices, computers, and smartphones — including PNG, TIFF, ZIP, and GIF. The algorithm has also played a major role in PDF (for documents) and MP3 (for music) formats.

Like Prof. Viterbi, Prof. Ziv remained committed to teaching throughout his career, understanding that to safeguard Israel’s future, it is necessary to educate and empower the next generation of Israeli scholars, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

And like his friend, in November 2020, Prof. Ziv was awarded the International Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor — an award bestowed upon Prof. Viterbi in 2009.

The IEEE is the world’s largest technical-professional organization, with about half a million members in 150 countries. The association’s Medal of Honor has been awarded to a single winner each year since 1917, in recognition of an exceptional contribution to science and technology. This is IEEE’s most prestigious award and one of the most prestigious in the world of technology, honoring scientists whose exceptional achievements have left a mark for years on technology, society, and engineering.

The award is in recognition of Prof. Ziv’s contributions to informational theory and data compression technology, as well as his distinguished research leadership. He is the first Israeli to have won this honor from the IEEE. 

It is perhaps fitting that Prof. Ziv’s honor coincides with the fifth anniversary of Viterbi Day, when the Technion celebrates the anniversary of Prof. Viterbi’s generous $50 million gift to secure and enhance the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s leadership position in electrical and computer engineering in Israel and globally. In 2015, the Technion recognized this extraordinary gift by renaming the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in honor of Prof. Viterbi and his late wife, Erna Finci Viterbi. The Technion is pleased to celebrate both milestones of these extraordinary men, as well as the friendship that has bonded them together.

When he received the Technion Medal of Honor in 2015, Prof. Viterbi highlighted the essential role of collaboration in electrical engineering. As he notes, we would not have many of the innovations we rely upon today without collaboration across disciplines. Yet the partnership between Prof. Viterbi and Prof. Ziv shows that collaboration does not only yield dazzling new inventions and groundbreaking research. Collaboration inspires, challenges, and enriches us as individuals. Across two continents and five decades, the friendship of these two living legends has laid the groundwork for Israel’s startup revolution, through their ingenuity, their research, and their support of countless young Israeli engineers and entrepreneurs. But it has also deeply enriched the pair personally through five decades of camaraderie.

The Technion is forever indebted to and inspired by the collaboration and friendship of  Andrew Viterbi and Jacob Ziv — two giants in their field we are so proud to call part of the Technion family.