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Toby Berger: 2011 IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal Recipient

Toby Berger - 2011 IEEE Richard W Hamming Medal recipientToby Berger’s pioneering contributions to rate distortion and source coding have impacted how audio and video files are compressed for efficient transmission and viewing over the Internet. Dr. Berger was the first to extend Shannon’s lossy coding theorem to abstract-alphabet sources with memory in 1968. Dr. Berger’s work was the forerunner of the widely adopted JPEG and MPEG standards for picture and video files. The structures of today’s video coding standards resemble the structures Berger described in 1970. His book, Rate Distortion Theory: A Mathematical Basis for Data Compression (Prentice Hall, 1971) became the best reference on the topic and is still an important source today. Dr. Berger is one of the pioneers of multiuser source coding, which deals with the challenges of handling the transfer of information from one to many. Building on his rate-distortion work, he helped define the framework and future directions for distributed source coding and distributed lossy coding. He defined fundamental concepts including strong typicality and the Markov lemma for distributed source coding and network information theory. Dr. Berger’s introduction of the “CEO problem” for multiterminal source coding during the late 1990s is considered one of the most important contributions in the history of distributed coding. His more recent interests include combining information theory and biological systems for an interdisciplinary area called “neuroinformation theory” that holds promise for energy-efficient computation and communication that is analog instead of digital.

An IEEE Life Fellow, Dr. Berger is the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.


The IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal, established in 1986, is named in honor of Dr. Richard W. Hamming, who had a central role in the development of computer and computing science, and whose many significant contributions in the area of information science include his error-correcting codes.

Sponsor: QUALCOMM, Inc.

Presented to: An individual or team, up to three in number

Scope: For exceptional contributions to information sciences, systems, and technology

Prize: The award consists of a gold medal, a bronze replica, a certificate, and honorarium.

Basis for Judging: In the evaluation process, the following criteria are considered: information transmission, coding, storage and recovery, subject areas include information theory, coding theory, data communication, computer networks, data storage and retrieval, image and speech understanding, originality, breadth, impact on technology, patents/publications, and the quality of the nomination.

Nomination deadline: 1 July

Presentation: At the annual IEEE Honors Ceremony

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