Robert Mario Fano
(born 1917 as Roberto Mario Fano
) is an Italian
computer scientist, currently professor emeritus
of Electrical Engineering
and Computer Science
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
. Fano is known principally for his work on information theory
, inventing (with Claude Shannon
) Shannon-Fano coding
. In the early 1960s, he was involved in the development of time-sharing
computers, and served as director of MIT's Project MAC
from its founding in 1963 until 1968.
Fano was born in Turin, Italy (son of Gino Fano and younger brother of Ugo Fano), where he lived and studied engineering (as an undergraduate at the School of Engineering of Torino) until 1939, when he emigrated to the United States. He received his S.B. in electrical engineering from MIT in 1941, before joining the staff of the MIT Radiation Laboratory. After the war, he received an Sc.D., also from MIT, in 1947. His thesis, entitled "Theoretical Limitations on the Broadband Matching of Arbitrary Impedances", was supervised by Ernst Guillemin. He joined the MIT faculty in 1947. Between 1950 and 1953, he led the Radar Techniques Group at Lincoln Laboratory.
Fano is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He received the Claude E. Shannon Award in 1976 for his work in information theory.
In addition to his work in information theory, Fano also published articles and books about microwave systems, electromagnetism, network theory, and engineering education. His book-length publications include:
- George L. Ragan, ed., Microwave Transmission Circuits, vol. 9 in the Radiation Laboratory Series (as co-author, 1948).
- Electromagnetic Energy Transmission and Radiation (with Lan Jen Chu and Richard B. Adler, 1960).
- Electromagnetic Fields, Energy, and Forces (with Chu and Adler, 1960).
- Transmission of Information: A Statistical Theory of Communications (1961).
- Oral history interview with Robert M. Fano 20 April 1989. Charles Babbage Institute University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Fano discusses his move to computer science from information theory and his interaction with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Topics include: computing research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the work of J.C.R. Licklider at the Information Processing Techniques Office of ARPA; time-sharing and computer networking research; Project MAC; computer science education; CTSS development; System Development Corporation (SDC); the development of ARPANET; and a comparison of ARPA, National Science Foundation, and Office of Naval Research computer science funding.