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David Forney: The Man Who Launched a Million Modems

The 2016 IEEE Medal of Honor recipient turned information theory into practice

7 min read
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David Forney: The Man Who Launched a Million Modems
Photo: Mike McGregor

It can sometimes seem as though there's a gaping chasm between theory and reality. But G. David Forney Jr., the recipient of this year's IEEE Medal of Honor, masterfully straddles both realms, his colleagues say. A key figure in the development of the high-speed modem, a device that opened up the Internet and all its associated world-changing technologies, Forney has balanced the practical and the theoretical throughout his career. Over the years, he has not only made critical contributions to communications and information theory but also put some of this recondite mathematical theory into practice. And as a result, he can claim a key role in the greatest communications revolution in modern history.

“He's one of the people who gets to the heart of abstract subjects very quickly," says Thomas Kailath, an emeritus professor of engineering at Stanford and the 2007 IEEE Medal of Honor recipient. “But uniquely, when needed, he also designed and built circuits, wrote code, and got things working. Everything Dave does, he does well."

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3 min read
An image of the inside of an IBM quantum computer.
IBM

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