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David A. Huffman

1925, city, USA
Oct 7 1999, California, USA

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Achievement

Discovered the method of compression, the so called Huffman code, now widely used in datacommunication en graphical applications-storage systems.

Biography

David Huffman, IEEE Fellow, died 7 Oct. at a California hospital after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 74.

Prof. Huffman earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Ohio State University in 1944. Upon finishing his undergraduate work, he entered the U.S. Navy, where he served as a radar maintenance officer on a destroyer. After his tour of duty, he resumed his education and received an M.S. at Ohio State in 1949 and another degree from MIT in 1953.

Prof. Huffman joined the faculty at MIT in 1953 and was promoted to professor in 1962. He remained at MIT until 1967. He then moved to California to become the founding faculty member of the Information Sciences Department at the new campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz. He retired in 1994, but remained active as an emeritus professor.

He is probably best known for the development of the Huffman Coding Procedure, the result of a term paper written while he was a graduate student at MIT. Huffman Codes are present in nearly every application that requires efficient use of binary digits in the digital representation of data. Examples include data storage and retrieval systems, modems, fax machines, and high-definition television.

Most recently he turned his attention to the efficient representation of surfaces.

He received many awards and honors including the 1999 IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal and the Louis E. Levy Medal of the Franklin Institute. He is also a charter recipient of the Computer Pioneer Award, established by the governing board of the IEEE Computer Society. In 1998 he was honored with a Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation by the IEEE Information Theory Society.

Surviving are his wife, Marilyn; two daughters, Elise and Linda; a son, Stephen; a stepdaughter, Marti Homer Kehlet; a stepson, Darin Homer; and a brother, Donald.

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