Dr. Robert W. Lucky, “Bob”, age 86, passed away in his home with his children and loyal dog at his side on March 10, 2022. Born to Arthur and Grace Lucky, he was raised in Mt Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA where he met his sweetheart, Joan Jackson. Bob attended Purdue University, where he received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1957, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1959 and 1961, respectively. After graduation, Dr Lucky married Joan Jackson and joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, where, initially, he was involved in studying ways of sending digital information over telephone lines. The best known outcome of this work was his invention of the adaptive equalizer, the key enabler for all high-speed modems today. The textbook on data communications which he co-authored became the most cited reference in the communications field over the period of a decade.
At Bell Labs, Dr. Lucky moved through a number of levels to become Executive Director of the Communications Sciences Research Division in 1982, where he was responsible for research on the methods and technologies for future communication systems. In 1992, he left Bell Labs to assume the position of Corporate Vice-President of Applied Research at Bellcore, Red Bank, New Jersey.
Dr. Lucky has been active in professional associations. He has served on the IEEE Board of Directors as Vice President-Publications and Executive Vice President. He also has served as President of the IEEE Communications Society. He has been editor of several technical journals, including the Proceedings of the IEEE, and since 1982 he has written the bimonthly "Reflections" column offering philosophical and sometimes humorous observations on engineering, life and technology in Spectrum magazine. in 1993, these "Reflections" columns were collected in the IEEE Press book “Lucky Strikes... Again."
Lucky was a Fellow of the IEEE and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was a consulting editor for a series of books on communications through Plenum Press. He has served on the advisory boards or committees of many universities and government organizations, and was Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of the United States Air Force from 1986-1989. He was the 1987 recipient of the prestigious Marconi International Fellowship for his contributions to data communications. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Purdue University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has also been awarded the Distinguished Civilian Contributions Medal of the U.S. Air Force, and the IEEE Edison Medal in 1995 "For an extraordinary career in telecommunications providing visionary technical leadership, support of his profession, and compelling public advocacy of technology.” Most recently, Dr Lucky was the Chairman of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority.
Dr. Lucky was a frequent speaker before both scientific and general audiences. He has been an invited lecturer at approximately 100 universities, and has been the guest on a number of network television broadcasts, including the Bill Moyers public television series "A World of Ideas' " where he discussed the impacts of future technological advances. He is the author of the popular book Silicon Dreams, which is a semi-technical and philosophical discussion of the ways in which both humans and computers deal with information.
Although Dr. Lucky has been described as making the impossible, possible, he was never one to wear his accomplishments on his sleeve. Armed with self-deprecating humor, friends and co-workers were touched by his kindness, grace and encouragement of others. They were dazzled by his remarkable storytelling talents and ability to end with perfect punchlines. He had a love of travel and music, as he was gifted in playing the piano and violin.
Dr. Lucky was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Joan Jackson Lucky. He is survived by his son, David William Lucky and his wife, Kim of Ridgewood, NJ and his daughter Karen Joan Lucky of Fair Haven, NJ. Dr. Lucky also leaves behind his beloved grandchildren, Megan, Shannon, Peter, Grace and Lily who adored their grandfather.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 25, at Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Burial will be private at Fairview Cemetery, Middletown.