Franklin Antonio Cause of Death: A Tribute to a Visionary Engineer and Philanthropist

Franklin Antonio, the co-founder of Qualcomm and a generous supporter of the SETI Institute and UC San Diego, passed away unexpectedly in May 2022. His cause of death has not been publicly disclosed, but his legacy lives on through his contributions to science, technology, engineering and education. In this article, we will explore his remarkable life and achievements, and pay tribute to his passion and vision.

Early Life and Education

Franklin Antonio was born in Clovis, California, in 1953. He showed an early interest and talent in mathematics and physics, and graduated from high school at the age of 16. He enrolled at UC San Diego, where he majored in Applied Physics and Information Science. He graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree, and was later honored as the 2021 Outstanding Alumni by the university.

Career and Innovation

After college, Antonio joined Linkabit, a company founded by Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi, two pioneers in digital communications. He worked there for 12 years, developing satellite and wireless technologies. In 1985, he left Linkabit with Jacobs, Viterbi and four others to create Qualcomm, a company that would revolutionize the mobile industry.

Antonio served as Qualcomm’s chief scientist, and was involved in many of the company’s breakthroughs, such as the OmniTRACS satellite communication system, the CDMA cellular technology, and the Globalstar low-Earth-orbit satellite system. He also led the growth of Qualcomm’s engineering departments, and mentored many engineers and researchers. He held 378 granted and pending patents worldwide, and was recognized as one of the most influential engineers in the field.

Philanthropy and SETI

Antonio was not only a successful entrepreneur, but also a generous philanthropist. He donated to various causes, such as Father Joe’s Villages, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless people in San Diego. He also gave $30 million to UC San Diego in 2017, to support the expansion of the Jacobs School of Engineering. In recognition of his gift, the university named a new building for collaborative engineering research and education after him: Franklin Antonio Hall. It was the first time a UC San Diego facility was named after an alumnus.

Antonio was also passionate about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and was a longtime supporter and collaborator of the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the origin and nature of life in the universe. He funded upgrades to the backend feeds of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a radio observatory used for SETI observations. He also participated in working meetings, applying his expertise and logic to challenge and improve the SETI strategies and instruments. He was especially excited about the recent resumption of regular SETI observations at the ATA.


Franklin Antonio was a visionary engineer and philanthropist, who made significant contributions to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and education. He was a co-founder of Qualcomm, a leader in the mobile industry, and a generous donor to UC San Diego and the SETI Institute. He died unexpectedly in May 2022, but his impact and legacy will continue to inspire and benefit many generations to come. He will be greatly missed by his friends, colleagues and the SETI community.

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