Understanding and Improving K-12 Engineering Education in the United States

Irwin Jacobs Biography

Irwin Mark Jacobs is a board member of QUALCOMM Incorporated, a company he co-founded in 1985. As CEO through 2005 and Chairman through 2009, he led the growth from startup to Fortune 500 Company. Qualcomm pioneered the development and commercialization of CDMA mobile wireless technology, now adopted for all third-generation cellular communications and in use by over eight hundred million consumers worldwide for voice and mobile broadband Internet access. He holds thirteen CDMA patents. QUALCOMM has been named for 11 consecutive years to the Fortune list of The 100 Best Companies To Work For, ranking 16th in 2009.

 Dr. Jacobs previously served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of LINKABIT Corporation, leading the development of Very Small Aperture Earth Terminals (VSATs) and the VideoCipher® satellite-to-home TV system. LINKABIT merged with M/A-COM in August 1980, and Dr. Jacobs served as executive vice president and a member of the board of directors until his resignation in April 1985. Over 100 San Diego communications companies trace their roots to LINKABIT.

From 1959 to 1966, Dr. Jacobs was an assistant, then associate professor of electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). From 1966 to 1972 he served as professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). While at MIT, Dr. Jacobs co-authored with Jack Wozencraft a textbook in digital communications Principles of Communication Engineering. First published in 1965, the book remains in use today.

Dr. Jacobs received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1956 from Cornell University and master of science and doctor of science degrees in electrical engineering from MIT in 1957 and 1959, respectively.

Dr. Jacobs was named Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Salk Institute In November 2006 and Chair of the National Academy of Engineering in July 2008.

He is the recipient of numerous industry, education and business awards, including:

  • Election to the National Academy of Engineering, 1982
  • The National Medal of Technology Award, 1994, the highest award bestowed by the president of the United States, for extraordinary achievements in the commercialization of technology
  • The IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, 1995
  • The American Electronics Association (AEA) Medal of Achievement Award, 1998
  • Radio Communication Report (RCR) Wireless Hall of Fame, March 2000
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, April 2001
  • Bower Award in Business Leadership, the Franklin Institute, April 2001
  • Dr. Morris Chang Exemplary Leadership Award, The Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA), December 2003
  • Dorothy I. Height Chair’s Award, Leadership Council on Civil Rights, May 2004
  • Honorary Professorship, Beijing University of Posts & Telecom (BUPT), October 2005
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (for 25 years in telecommunications), Financial Times, Dec 2005
  • IEEE/ Royal Society of Edinburgh Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award with Andrew Viterbi, June 2007.

He and his wife Joan have been cited by Business Week among the 50 Most-Generous Philanthropists in the United States