Irving S. Reed

USC announced today: “Professor Irving S. Reed passed away this morning, September 11, 2012, at the age of 88.  Professor Reed was a member of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering faculty from 1963 until his retirement in 1993 as Powell Chair of Engineering Emeritus.”

Prof. Reed had made significant contributions in radar design theory, programming languages and, of course, coding theory.  Reed-Muller and Reed-Solomon codes have been incredibly influential in electrical engineering, theoretical computer science and mathematics.

Reed-Solomon codes are used to protect data in countless applications including CDs, DVDs, DSL and RAID. They were also used to encode the digital images sent back by space probes like the Voyager. RS codes are my favorite example of something practically useful and at the same time theoretically deep.

The announcement mentions: “Millions of people today enjoy the benefits of Reed’s many inventions and contributions of technology, without being aware of their remarkable benefactor.”