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David A. Huffman

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David A. Huffman
Born(1925-08-09)August 9, 1925
DiedOctober 7, 1999(1999-10-07) (aged 74)
Alma materOhio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known forHuffman coding
AwardsIEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal (1999)
Scientific career
FieldsInformation theory, Coding theory
ThesisThe Synthesis of Sequential Switching Circuits (1953)
Doctoral advisorSamuel H. Caldwell

David Albert Huffman (August 9, 1925 – October 7, 1999) was an American pioneer in computer science, known for his Huffman coding.[1][2] He was also one of the pioneers in the field of mathematical origami.[3]


Huffman earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Ohio State University in 1944. Then, he served two years as an officer in the United States Navy. He returned to Ohio State to earn his master's degree in electrical engineering in 1949. In 1953, he earned his Doctor of Science in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with the thesis The Synthesis of Sequential Switching Circuits, advised by Samuel H. Caldwell.[1][2][4]


Huffman joined the faculty at MIT in 1953. In 1967, he joined the faculty of University of California, Santa Cruz and helped found its Computer Science Department, where he served as chair from 1970 to 1973. He retired in 1994.[2]

Huffman is best known for Huffman coding, which he published while a ScD student at MIT in 1952. Huffman came up with the algorithm when a professor offered students to either take the traditional final exam, or improve a leading algorithm for data compression.[5] Huffman reportedly was more proud of his work "The Synthesis of Sequential Switching Circuits,"[1] which was the topic of his 1953 MIT thesis (an abridged version of which was published in the Journal of the Franklin Institute in 1954.[6])

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gary Stix (September 1991). "Profile: Information Theorist David A. Huffman". Scientific American. Vol. 265, no. 3. Nature Publishing Group. pp. 54–58. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Stephens, Tim; Burns, Jim (October 11, 1999). "Eminent UCSC computer scientist David Huffman dies at age 74". Currents Online. University of California, Santa Cruz. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  3. ^ Lang, Robert. "Origami Science Links".
  4. ^ a b David Albert Huffman at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ "Data Compression Drives the Internet. Here's How It Works".
  6. ^ "The Synthesis of Sequential Switching Circuits". Journal of the Franklin Institute. 257 (3): 160–191, 275–303. March–April 1954.
  7. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database – Louis E. Levy Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "Past recipients for W. Wallace McDowell Award". IEEE Computer Society. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  9. ^ "Computer Pioneer Charter Recipients". IEEE Computer Society. Archived from the original on September 6, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  10. ^ "Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation". IEEE Information Theory Society. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
  11. ^ "IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved July 12, 2011.

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