On June 25, The Guglielmo Marconi International Fellowship Foundation at Columbia University named two leaders in communications technology to receive this year's International Marconi Fellowship. Robert Gallager, a widely respected academician and information theorist, and Robert Metcalfe, who developed the ubiquitous Ethernet computer networking standard, will be honored for their accomplishments at a ceremony in October.
"In light of this 30th anniversary year of Ethernet it's entirely appropriate for a giant among information theorists and one who pioneered a practical application for high-speed data communications to be selected the 2003 Marconi Fellows," said Charles Kao, chairman of this year's selection committee.
Gallager, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an MIT faculty member from 1960 until 2001. He was a disciple and former collaborator of Claude Shannon, whose ideas laid the foundation of modern information theory. Shannon's equations quantified the limits of how much information could be transmitted over a communications channel. Gallager won acclaim in 1960 for developing a series of advanced communications codes that achieved in practice the theoretical limits that Shannon had postulated. Gallager's book, "Information Theory and Reliable Communications," is regarded as the most authoritative on the subject. His textbooks are used in graduate studies at universities around the world.
In the tradition of Guglielmo Marconi, Robert Metcalfe has been an entrepreneur as well as an inventor. In 1973, while working as an engineer-scientist at the Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, he developed the Ethernet as a standard for interconnecting computers for high-speed data transfer. He went on to be a founder of 3Com Corporation, holding various senior executive positions there, including chairman and chief executive officer.
In the 1990s, Metcalfe became chief executive officer of InfoWorld Publishing. From 1995 to 2003 he wrote a popular InfoWorld column, "From the Ether," which had a wide readership among information technology professionals. Since 2001 he has been a general partner in Polaris Venture Partners, a Boston-area capital investment firm.
Gallager and Metcalfe join a select group of 30 influential figures previously awarded the Marconi International Fellowship, which is one of the most prestigious honors in the field of telecommunications and technology. Founded in 1974 with an endowment organized by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Marconi International Fellowship Foundation honors individuals whose work and influence emulate the principle of "creative service to humanity." Affiliated with Columbia University since 1997, the Foundation is located at The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.