John O'Sullivan (engineer)

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John O'Sullivan
John-OSullivan 20130528.jpg
Dr John O'Sullivan, 29 May 2013, near Hoogeveen, The Netherlands on the occasion of the colloquium "Reinventing Radio Astronomy" in honour of Arnold van Ardenne.
Born15 April 1947 (1947-04-15) (age 72)
Engineering career
Significant advanceTechnology underlying OFDM used in 802.11 Wireless LANs
AwardsPrime Minister's Prize for Science
M. A. Sargent Medal

Dr. John O’Sullivan is an Australian electrical engineer whose work in the application of Fourier transforms to radio astronomy[1] led to his invention with colleagues of a core technology that made wireless LAN fast and reliable. This technology was in 1994 patented by CSIRO[2] and forms part of the 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n Wi-Fi standards and thus O'Sullivan is also credited with the invention of WIFI.[3][4][5]

In 2009, O’Sullivan was awarded both the CSIRO Chairman's Medal and the Australian Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

In 2009, he was working on the design of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope, a step towards the proposed Square Kilometre Array telescope.

Fourier transforms and WiFi[edit]

In 1977, Dr John O'Sullivan, while working at the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory in the Netherlands, co-authored a paper in the Journal of the Optical Society of America titled "Image sharpness, Fourier optics, and redundant-spacing interferometry"[1] with J. P. Hamaker, and J. E. Noordam. In this paper, they presented a technique for sharpening and improving picture clarity in radio astronomy images.

In the early 1990s, O'Sullivan led a team at the CSIRO which patented, in 1996, the use of a related technique for reducing multipath interference of radio signals transmitted for computer networking. This technology is a part of all recent WiFi implementations.[6] As of April 2012, the CSIRO has earned over $430 million in royalties and settlements arising from the use of this patent as part of the 802.11 standards with as much as a billion dollars expected after further lawsuits against other parties.[7][8]


  • 1974 Doctor of Philosophy (Electrical Engineering), Sydney University [9]
  • 1969 Bachelor of Engineering, H1, University Medal, Sydney University[9]
  • 1969 Sydney University Sports Blue (Hockey)[9]
  • 1967 Bachelor of Science, Sydney University[9]

Career highlights, awards, fellowships and grants[edit]

Research highlights[edit]

  • Achieved an eight-fold increase of the bandwidth processing capacity of the Westerbork Radio Telescope as project leader for the digital continuum backend receiver
  • Participated in a series of innovative experiments to detect exploding black holes and other short time astronomical events
  • Developed an intellectual underpinning for adaptive optics in light telescopes and redundant baseline interferometer in radio telescopes
  • With Austek Microsystems created a fast Fourier transform computer chip. This VLSI chip consisted of 160,000 transistors and performed real time transforms at rates up to 2.5 Msamples/s
  • Influential role in the system design for the Australia Telescope
  • Led a CSIRO team comprising Graham Daniels, John Deane, Diethelm Ostry, Terry Percival who together invented a patented technology that uses fast Fourier transform and other techniques to enable fast, robust wireless networking in the home and office[11]
  • Led the system design for the world's first 802.11a (WiFi) chipset developed by Radiata Networks
  • Over 40 scientific and technical papers at numerous industry conferences
  • Granted 12 patents in the area of special purpose FFT processors, Wireless LANs and antennas
  • Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Institute of Engineers Australia
  • Member of international review committee for information and communications technologies in CSIRO
  • Member of Australian Square Kilometre Array Consultative Committee
  • Chair of the Mathematics, Information and Communication Sciences Expert Advisory Committee, Convenor ICT Appraisal committee, 2004 CRC selection round
  • Optical Society of America
  • Board Director AAPT, Taggle Systems


  1. ^ a b Hamaker, J. P.; O'Sullivan, J. D.; Noordam, J. E. (1977), "Image sharpness, Fourier optics, and redundant-spacing interferometry", J. Opt. Soc. Am., 67 (8): 1122–1123, doi:10.1364/JOSA.67.001122
  2. ^ EP 0599632 
  3. ^ "WATCH: 5G WiFi Will Help Integrate Wireless Networking Into Everyday Lives". The Huffington Post.
  4. ^ "The CSIRO WiFi technology invention". Australian Academy of Science.
  5. ^ "European Inventor Award: High-speed wireless networking". Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  6. ^ Older WiFi implementations which only support 802.11b do not use patented technology
  7. ^ Moses, Asher (1 June 2010). "CSIRO to reap 'lazy billion' from world's biggest tech companies". The Age. Melbourne.
  8. ^ "CSIRO wins legal battle over Wi-Fi patent". The Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Melbourne. 1 April 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d 2009 Prime Minister's Prize for Science award citation Archived 2011-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Invention: Wireless LAN for high speed data transfer
  11. ^ US The present invention discloses a wireless LAN, a peer-to-peer wireless LAN, a wireless transceiver and a method of transmitting data, all of which are capable of operating at frequencies in excess of 10 GHz and in multipath transmission environments. 5487069, O'Sullivan, John D.; Graham R. Daniels & Terence M. P. Percival et al., "Wireless LAN", published 23 January 1996 

External links[edit]