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David A. Huffman

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Biography

David Albert Huffman received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal in 1999. He was regarded as a pioneer in computer science, and for his Huffman coding in particular. He was also known as a trailblazer within the field of mathematical origami.

Huffman was born on August 9, 1925 in Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Ohio State University in 1944. After graduation, he served as an officer in the US Navy for two years. Huffman then returned to Ohio State, and earned his master's degree in electrical engineering in 1949. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology four years later.

Huffman joined the faculty at MIT the same year that he completed his doctoral degree. Fourteen years later, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was one of the founders of the Computer Science Department at UC, Santa Cruz, and served as that department's chair from 1970-1973. Huffman retired in 1994.

In addition to the Hamming Medal, Huffman also received the Franklin Institute Louis E. Levy Medal for his doctoral dissertation (1955), the IEEE Computer Society W. Wallace McDowell Award (1973), the Computer Pioneer Award (1981), also from the IEEE Computer Society, and the IEEE Information Theory Society Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation for his "invention of the Huffman minimum-length lossless data-compression code."

Huffman died on October 7, 1999 from cancer.