January 16, 2019

Solomon Golomb, USC Professor, digital communications pioneer, 83

Solomon Wolf Golomb, decorated mathematician and distinguished electrical engineering professor at USC, died at his home May 1. He was 83.

Golomb, son and grandson of Lithuanian rabbis, was born in Baltimore on May 30, 1932. After graduating from Baltimore City College, he went on to earn a bachelor’s in mathematics from Johns Hopkins University before he turned 19, followed by master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard. His groundbreaking work in communications theory and cryptography led to his being hired by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1956 (then part of the U.S. Army), where, at the age of 24, he was tasked with finding ways to control missiles with jam-proof radio signals. 

In 1963, he immersed himself in the world of USC academia, joining the college’s electrical engineering and mathematics faculties, where he remained until his death. 

As evidenced by the number of honors, awards and medals he received throughout his long career, Golomb’s contributions to the field of math and engineering cannot be overstated. In 2013, Golomb went to the White House to receive the National Medal of Science, the highest honor in the U.S. for science innovation. And last month, Golomb received the prestigious Franklin Institute’s Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering, joining an elite membership that includes Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Andrew Viterbi, namesake of USC’s engineering school.

“Professor Golomb was truly a giant in the field of mathematics and engineering,” USC President C.L. Max Nikias said. “He was an exceptionally imaginative thinker, and so many enduring innovations and highly creative games — including polyominoes and pentomino — emerged from his inimitable genius. But beyond the innumerable accomplishments, Professor Golomb was also a dear friend and colleague, having served on USC’s faculty for more than half a century. Indeed, he helped transform our university into the world-class institution it is today.”

Golomb is survived by his daughters Beatrice (Terry Sejnowski) and Astrid.