Robert Mario Fano
Robert "Bob" Fano, 98, of Naples, Fla. passed away at Naples Community Hospital on July 13, 2016. He was Ford Professor of Engineering Emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. He was predeceased by his parents, Gino and Rosetta Fano of Turin, Italy; his brother, Ugo Fano of Chicago, Ill.; and in 1998 by his beloved wife of 49 years, Jacqueline (nee Crandall) of Concord.
Born on November 11, 1917 in Turin, Italy, he attended the School of Engineering of Torino until 1939 when he immigrated to the United States to escape Mussolini’s anti-Jewish legislation. In 1941, he received his S.B. in electrical engineering from MIT. After graduation, he began his 43 year career at MIT. During the war, he was on the staff at MIT and the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he worked on microwave radar development. In 1947, he received his Sc.D. in electrical engineering also from MIT, and became a member of the MIT faculty. Bob is best known for his work in information theory and his involvement in the early development of time-sharing computers. From 1963 to 1968, he served as founding director of MIT’s Project MAC which has grown into the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He was Associate Head of the Electrical Engineering Department for Computer Science from 1971-1974. An accomplished electrical engineer in network theory, microwaves, electromagnetism, information theory, and computer science, Bob’s first love was for his MIT students. He continued teaching until his retirement in 1984.
Bob was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and 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 of the IEEE Information Society and the Education Medal of the IEEE. He served on the Board of Trustees of Bentley College, Waltham, MA, from 1973-1993.
An avid outdoorsman, Bob grew up hiking, rock climbing, and skiing in the mountains of Italy. In the United States, he continued his skiing until his late eighties and enjoyed boating with his family for many years off the shores of his former summer home in Chatham, MA. He welcomed his friends and family with a ready smile, a wiggle of the ears, a hearty pat on the back, and a tale to tell.
Bob is survived by his daughters, Paola (Robert) Nisonger of Milford, Mich., Linda (Mark) Ryan of Marco Island, Fla., and Carol (Ann) Fano of Stowe, Vt.; his grandchildren, Christina (Ben) Murphy of Plymouth, Mich., Brendan (Erica) Ryan of Miami, Fla., Meghan Ryan of New York, N.Y., Malcolm Fano of New Milford, Conn., and Theresa Fano of Essex Junction, Vt.; his sister-in-law, Lilla Fano of Chicago, Ill., and several nieces.
A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in Bob’s memory may be made to Friends of Pleasant Bay, P.O. Box 1243, Harwich, MA 02645 or a charity of the donor’s choice.