Bishnu S. Atal


Bishnu S. Atal
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Associated organizations
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Bell Telephone Laboratories, University of Washington
Fields of study
Communications, Signal processing, Acoustics, Computer and Information Sciences
IEEE Kilby Signal Processing Medal (2013), IEEE Signal Processing Society Best Paper Award (1995), IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award (1986), Franklin Institute Benjamin Franklin Medal (2003), AT&T Fellow (1997), Bell Laboratories Fellow (1994), Thomas Edison Patent Award (1994), the New Jersey Hall of Fame Inventor of the Year Award (2000)


Bishnu Saroop Atal was born in 1933 in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. He received his B.S. degree in physics (1952) from the University of Lucknow; a diploma in electrical communication engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in 1955; and the Ph.D. in electrical engineering (1968) from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

From 1957 to 1960, he was a lecturer in acoustics at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. In 1961 Atal joined Bell Laboratories, where he focused on acoustics and speech, making major contributions in the field of speech analysis, synthesis, and coding, including low bit-rate speech coding and automatic speech recognition. Together with Manfred R. Schroeder, he advanced and promoted linear predictive coding (LPC, 1967), and developed code-excited linear prediction (CELP, 1985). for efficient transmission of speech over digital networks. Demonstrations at conferences that LPC could represent the varying characteristics of human voice and encode the speech signal at a fraction of conventional methods for more efficient transmission stimulated research and development around the world. Aided by U.S. government funding and the increasing power of integrated circuits, LPC quickly became the basis for military communication standards. The CELP method is now used in practically all digital cellular speech standards as well as standards for digital voice communication over the internet.

Atal’s pioneering research on speech coding for providing natural-sounding speech over digital systems and devices laid the groundwork for standards that lie at the heart of practically every mobile phone in use today. Speech coding employs signal-processing techniques to accurately model voice signals for producing high-quality speech while compressing the signals for bandwidth-efficient transmission. Linear predictive methods for speech coding are considered one of the most important advances in digital communications technology. They have enabled wireless networks to use less electromagnetic spectrum space and fewer towers, aiding in the mass deployment of digital cellular systems. This has played an important role in enabling wireless information and communications networks for countries lacking cable communications infrastructures.

An IEEE Life Fellow, Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, Dr. Atal has received numerous honors, including the IEEE Kilby Signal Processing Medal (2013); IEEE Signal Processing Society Best Paper Award (1995); IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award (1986); and the Franklin Institute Benjamin Franklin Medal (2003). Dr. Atal retired as a director of AT&T Labs Research in 2002 to become an affiliate professor with the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.

Further Reading