A Belgian mathematician and physicist from the Free University of Brussels (VUB) whose work contributed to the look of the internet as we know it was in Paris last week to be awarded the prize for women in science awarded annually by Unesco and the LOréal Foundation, the university announced.
Ingrid Daubechies works on wavelets, which are used in the processing of digital signals and image compression. She has described them as “mathematical building blocks” which allow the essential elements of an image to be singled out and processing without other parts of the image being involved. That makes the transmission of a high-quality image faster and more reliable. And without the technology to which her work has contributed, there would be many fewer memes on Facebook, and virtually no Instagram at all.
The prize jury also praised her for her work over the years on equal opportunities for women, and especially access to education and science learning in developing countries.
Professor Daubechies took a doctorate in theoretical physics at the VUB in 1980, before joining Bell Labs, who did pioneering work on an internet interface. She then went on to Rutgers, and became the first woman professor of mathematics at Princeton in 2004. She is now working at Duke University.
Previously, she won the medal of the US National Academy of Sciences, and was admitted to the French Academy of Sciences.
Prof. Daubechies was one of five recipients of the 100,000 euro prize awarded by the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Committee, and funded by the LOréal Foundation.
“In mathematics, we are always trying to understand magic things,” she said on receiving the prize. “I hope my work will also contribute to helping people see that mathematics is a part of everyday life.”