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Legendary Caltech Computer Engineer Carver Mead Awarded the Kyoto Prize – Pasadena Now


Carver Mead (BS ’56, MS ’57, PhD ’60), one of the fathers of modern computing, was awarded the 2022 Kyoto Prize by the Inamori Foundation of Japan. The announcement was made today in Kyoto.

According to the Inamori Foundation, Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus, was given the award for his “major contribution to the establishment of guiding principles for the design of VLSI systems.” VLSI, which stands for “very large-scale integration,” is the process of combining thousands or even millions of transistors into one chip that becomes an integrated circuit and is the basis of the world’s most trusted computers. today. Mead received the National Medal of Technology in 2002 for his efforts (now known as the National Medal of Technology and Innovation).

As the design of VLSI systems became more complex with the increase in the number of transistors per chip during the 1970s, Mead developed a new way of dividing the process of designing VLSI systems into in logic, circuit, and layout designs, and to separate them. from the manufacturing process. In doing so, he laid the foundation for automation of the design process for VLSIs, which in turn opened the door for rapid industry development.

Mead and computer engineer Lynn Conway literally wrote the book on the subject, Introduction to VLSI Systemswhich was first published in 1978 and is the world standard textbook for chip design.

A Caltech alumnus — he earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the Institute — Mead began teaching at the Institute in 1958. He holds more than 80 U.S. patents and has written more than 100 scientific publications. . Mead will share this year’s Kyoto Prize with population biologist Bryan T. Grenfell of Princeton University, who proposed a methodology that predicts the infectious disease dynamics of RNA viruses by considering viral evolution, and musician Zakir Hussain, who opened up new musical possibilities for the board, a traditional percussion instrument in India. In 2007, the Kyoto Prize was awarded to Hiroo Kanamori, John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus, in honor of his “significant contribution to understanding the physical processes of earthquakes and developing seismic hazard mitigation system to protect human life. ”

Mead, Grenfell, and Hussain will each receive a cash gift of 100 million yen (approximately $ 757,000 at the current exchange rate), a Kyoto Prize Medal of 20-karat gold, and a diploma.

The Inamori Foundation was founded in 1984 by Kazuo Inamori, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera and KDDI Corporation. The prize was created in 1985 in line with Inamori’s belief that individuals have no “higher calling than to strive for the greater good of humanity and the world, and that the future of humanity can only be ensured even by the balance of scientific endeavor. progress and spiritual depth. , ”According to the foundation.

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