University Professor Solomon Golomb dies at 83

Solomon W. Golomb, University Professor, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Chair in Communications, died Sunday at his home. He was 83.

“With unparalleled scholarly contributions and distinction to the field of engineering and mathematics, Sol’s impact has been extraordinary, transformative and impossible to measure,” Yannis Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering, said in a statement to Viterbi faculty and staff on Sunday.

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University, Golomb joined the faculty at USC in 1963, serving for more than 50 years. Golomb was known for his pioneering work in communications theory, particularly shift register sequences. He also invented Golomb coding, a data compression method, and Golomb rulers, a specialized ruler used in radio astronomy and information theory. Golomb was also known for creating mathematical games such as polyominoes, which served as the inspiration for Tetris.

“His fertile mind never ceased to amaze and his kindness and humanity never ceased to inspire,” Yortsos said. “Sol Golomb’s presence was catalytic, inspirational and ingenious.”

Golomb was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1985, he was awarded the USC Presidential Medallion, the University’s highest honor. In 2013, Golomb received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama for his work in mathematics and communications.

“We have lost a brilliant mind, a mentor, a trusted colleague and advisor, a wonderful and kind human being, a steadfast supporter of the school and the university,” Yortsos said.  “But we also have been truly fortunate to be part of his life and to follow the paths that he traced for us, to be inspired and enlightened, and to have his brilliance and impact reflected on our achievements and on our aspirations.”


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