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Legends of Silicon Valley: Thomas Kailath

Engineer, Applied Mathematician, Entrepreneur, and Teacher extraordinaire.

[Update: November 20, 2014 – Professor Kailath was honoured with the National Medal of Science for 2014 by President Obama at a White House ceremony this morning.]

Professor Thomas Kailath, doyen of Communication Engineering and Information Theory, is currently the Hitachi America Professor Emeritus of Engineering at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Professor Kailath completed his undergraduate studies at the College of Engineering in Pune, India, and then took his doctoral degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961. In 1963, he joined the faculty at Stanford University‘s Department of Electrical Engineering, where he established a world-class program in Information Systems. Over a career spanning five decades, he mentored around 80 PhD students, many of whom are today’s leading researchers and successful entrepreneurs.

Kailath is renowned for attacking difficult engineering problems and bringing to bear his considerable mathematical prowess towards their resolution. The Wiki link referenced above does not do justice to his deep and wide-ranging contributions. Perhaps one of these days that deficit will be redressed. Meanwhile, here is a profile in the IEEE Spectrum magazine.

Professor Kailath is a man of great warmth, with a hearty laugh and a dash of impish humour. We had a delightful outing on the Stanford campus yesterday afternoon.

Professor Thomas Kailath

Professor Thomas Kailath
5D Mark III, 85L II

On the Stanford Universty campus, Palo Alto, California

On the Stanford Universty campus, Palo Alto, California
5D Mark III, 24-105L

Thomas Kailath of Stanford University

At the Memorial Church, Stanford University
5D Mark III, 24-105L


In 2009, Thomas Kailath was honoured with the prestigious Frontiers of Knowledge award by the BBVA Foundation. The video of his acceptance speech is embedded below.

Video © BBVA Foundation

Earlier posts in this ongoing series are consolidated here.

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