William Lucas Root was born in Iowa in 1919. In 1940, he graduated from Iowa State University with distinction as a top student in electrical engineering. He then went on to MIT, where he earned the master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1943. His education was interrupted by World War II; he served as a Marine officer until the end of the war. Returning to MIT, he earned a doctorate in mathematics in 1952.
On receiving his doctorate, Bill joined the Analysis Group at Lincoln Laboratory, becoming its head from 1959 to 1961. It was during his stay at Lincoln Laboratory that Bill first became involved in the statistical analysis of radar signals. From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, Bill was a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan.
His reputation as a leading researcher brought him invitations for visiting professorships at the University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State University, Cambridge University,and the Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. In recognition of his research, Bill was made a Fellow of the IEEE in 1965.
He was further recognized as a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellow (1970). In 1986, as Shannon Lecturer, he received the highest honor bestowed by the IEEE Professional Group on Information Theory at the time. He was cited for “…consistent and profound contributions to the field of information theory.”