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By Andrea J. Goldsmith

Gerard (Jerry) Foschini 400x600

Gerard J. Foschini, a distinguished researcher, prolific inventor, inspiring mentor, and treasured colleague, passed away peacefully on September 17, 2023 at the age of 83. Jerry, as he was fondly known to all, contributed to profound advances in many generations of wireless, optical, and wireline communications. Using his mathematical prowess, deep insight, and immense creativity, Jerry would solve some of the most vexing problems in communication theory using an elegance and simplicity that brought out the most important essence of the solution. He then converted these mathematical masterpieces into techniques that significantly improved the performance of communication systems in practice. This unique ability was best showcased by Jerry’s beautiful construction in the mid-1990s of the layered space-time communication technique BLAST, which demonstrated in both theory and practice that data rates in wireless systems could increase linearly with the size of the transmit and receive antenna arrays. Such multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) arrays are widespread today in both cellular and WiFi systems.

Jerry was a lifelong New Jerseyian. He was born in Jersey City in 1940, received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1961, his Masters in electrical engineering from NYU in 1963, and his doctorate in mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1967. He joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1961 where he remained until his retirement in 2013. While working at Bell Labs he also taught advanced communications to very lucky students at Princeton and at Rutgers.  

Jerry’s work was recognized with many prestigious awards and honors. At Bell Labs he held the title of Distinguished Inventor and Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. He also received the 2000 Bell Labs Inventor’s Award as well as their Gold Award and Teamwork Award. In 2002 he received the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award, an honor given to New Jersey residents who have changed the world with their inventions. Among his many other awards and honors, Jerry received the 2006 IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award, the 2008 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the IEEE Communication Theory Committee Technical Achievement Award. In 2009, Jerry was elected to the National Academy of Engineering “for contributions to the science and technology of wireless communications with multiple antennas for transmission and receiving”.

Although Jerry was modest and unassuming, his brilliance and deep insight became apparent as soon as one engaged him in a technical conversation. His kindness and grace permeated all his interactions. A great mentor to all his colleagues, Jerry was particularly inspiring to young researchers, eager to hear about their work and provide them with guidance and encouragement.

For all his accomplishments in mathematics and communications theory, Jerry was most proud of his family. Jerry was predeceased by his beloved wife of 60 years, and leaves behind his two children and four grandchildren.

The impact of Jerry on the entire technical community has been profound. He was a true gentleman that will be sorely missed.

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