Robert J. McEliece

Robert J. McEliece
Robert J. McEliece
Washington, D.C.
Associated organizations
Fields of study
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal


Robert J. McEliece is best known for his many seminal contributions to the theory and implementation of algebraic error-correcting codes. His numerous research articles have been invaluable to the understanding of a wide range of problems in information theory and coding. Dr. McEliece was one of the first researchers to study convolutional codes, which became a staple of channel coding for deep-space communications systems, and of notable importance was his work on NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter. When the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna failed to deploy, threatening the ability to transmit photos and data from Jupiter, Dr. McEliece was an important member of the team that reprogrammed the on-board convolutional encoder in a way that saved most of the data.

His other achievements include the much-celebrated “McEliece, Rodmich, Rumsey, Welch Bound.” The MRRW Bound is the best known upper bound on the tradeoff between rate and minimum distance of the best binary codes.

He also created the McEliece Theorem, which identifies the largest power of p that divides all the weights in a p-ary cyclic code, and which contains the Ax divisibility theorem as a special case, considered to be one of the deepest mathematical results to come out of coding theory.

Dr. McEliece has contributed to the design of error-correction telecommunication systems for NASA/JPL spacecraft and for mass-market data storage systems (flash memories and disks) for Sony consumer electronics. An IEEE Life Fellow, Dr. McEliece is the Allen E. Puckett Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering Emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, and is also a consultant to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. McEliece was the recipient of the 2009 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal.