David J. C. MacKay
|Sir David MacKay|
David MacKay photographed by David Stern
|Born||David John Cameron MacKay
22 April 1967
|Died||14 April 2016
|Thesis||Bayesian methods for adaptive models (1992)|
|Doctoral advisor||John Hopfield|
|Spouse||Ramesh Ghiassi (m. 2011)|
Sir David John Cameron MacKay, FRS, FInstP, FICE (22 April 1967 – 14 April 2016) was a British physicist, mathematician, and academic. He was the Regius Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and from 2009 to 2014 was Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). MacKay was well known as author of the book Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.
MacKay was educated at Newcastle High School and represented Britain in the International Physics Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1985, receiving the first prize for experimental work. He continued his education at Trinity College, Cambridge, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences (Experimental and theoretical physics) in 1988. He went to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) as a Fulbright Scholar, where his supervisor was John Hopfield. He was awarded a PhD in 1992.
Career and research
In January 1992 MacKay was appointed the Royal Society Smithson Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge, continuing his cross-disciplinary research in the Cavendish Laboratory, the Department of Physics of the University of Cambridge. In 1995 he was made a University Lecturer in the Cavendish Laboratory. He was promoted in 1999 to a Readership, in 2003 to a Professorship in Natural Philosophy and in 2013 to the post of Regius Professorship of Engineering.
MacKay's contributions in machine learning and information theory include the development of Bayesian methods for neural networks, the rediscovery (with Radford M. Neal) of low-density parity-check codes, and the invention of Dasher, a software application for communication especially popular with those who cannot use a traditional keyboard. He cofounded the knowledge management company Transversal. In 2003, his book Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms was published.
His interests beyond research included the development of effective teaching methods and African development; he taught regularly at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cape Town from its foundation in 2003 to 2006. In 2008 he completed a book on energy consumption and energy production without fossil fuels called Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air. MacKay used £10,000 of his own money to publish the book, and the initial print run of 5,000 sold within days. The book received praise from The Economist, The Guardian, and Bill Gates, who called it "one of the best books on energy that has been written." Like his textbook on Information theory, MacKay made the book available for free online. In March 2012 he gave a TED talk on renewable energy.
MacKay was appointed to be Chief Scientific Advisor of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom, in September 2009. In October 2014, at the end of his five-year term, he was succeeded by John Loughhead.
Awards and honours
|“||David MacKay introduced more efficient types of error-correcting code that are now used in satellite communications, digital broadcasting and magnetic recording. He advanced the field of Machine Learning by providing a sound Bayesian foundation for artificial neural networks. Using this foundation, he significantly improved their performance, allowing them to be used for designing new types of steel that are now used in power stations. He used his expertise in information theory to design a widely used interface called "dasher" that allows disabled people to write efficiently using a single finger or head-mounted pointer."||”|
MacKay was born the fifth child of Donald MacCrimmon MacKay and Valerie MacKay. His elder brother Robert S. MacKay FRS (born in 1956) is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. MacKay was a vegetarian.
Illness and death
MacKay was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer (malignant adenocarcinoma) in July 2015, for which he underwent palliative chemotherapy, a process he documented in detail on his public personal blog. He died in the afternoon of 14 April 2016. He is survived by his wife and two children.
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- Adams, Ryan P. (2009). Kernel methods for nonparametric Bayesian inference of probability densities and point processes (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
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- Hennig, Philipp (2011). Approximate inference in graphical models (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
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- Stern, David Hector (2008). Modelling uncertainty in the game of Go (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
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- Wallach, Hanna Megan (2008). Structured topic models for language (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
- Wilson, Simon. (2000). Applications of cyclic belief propagation (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge.
- Mackay, David (2009). Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air. UIT Cambridge. ISBN 0-9544529-3-3.
- MacKay, D. J. C.; Neal, R. M. (1996). "Near Shannon limit performance of low density parity check codes". Electronics Letters. 32 (18): 1645. doi:10.1049/el:19961141.
- Wills, S. A.; MacKay, D. J. C. (2006). "DASHER—An Efficient Writing System for Brain–Computer Interfaces?". IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. 14 (2): 244–246. doi:10.1109/TNSRE.2006.875573. PMID 16792304.
- "Sir David MacKay FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:
“All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies at the Wayback Machine (archived 25 September 2015)
- "Certificate of election EC/2009/27: MacKay, David John Cameron". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2016-04-26.
- "Ramesh and David". Rameshanddavid.blogspot.com. 15 January 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
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- "Britons of the Year", The Daily Telegraph, London, p. 15, 29 December 2009
- "What Will It Take to Save the Earth?" 26 April 2012 by Joel E. Cohen in The New York Review of Books
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- Mackay, David J.C. (1992). Bayesian methods for adaptive models (PhD thesis). California Institute of Technology. OCLC 222439886.
- David MacKay (24 June 2010). "Prof. David J.C. MacKay". web homepage. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
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- David J. C. MacKay's publications indexed by Google Scholar
- David J. C. MacKay's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier. (subscription required)
- MacKay, D. J. C. (1992). "A Practical Bayesian Framework for Backpropagation Networks". Neural Computation. 4 (3): 448–472. doi:10.1162/neco.19184.108.40.2068.
- MacKay, D. J. C. (1992). "Bayesian Interpolation". Neural Computation. 4 (3): 415–447. doi:10.1162/neco.19220.127.116.115.
- Ward, D. J.; MacKay, D. J. C. (2002). "Artificial intelligence: Fast hands-free writing by gaze direction". Nature. 418 (6900): 838–838. arXiv: . Bibcode:2002Natur.418..838W. doi:10.1038/418838a. PMID 12192400.
- "Transversal Team". Retrieved 27 January 2015.
- MacKay, David J. C. (September 2003). Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521642989.
- Leo Hickman (30 April 2009). "Power to the People". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- "Meltdown". The Economist. 8 April 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- Bill Gates (15 January 2010). "Clear Thinking on the Topic of Energy". The Gates Notes. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- "YouTube – How Many Light Bulbs? with David MacKay From Cambridge Ideas". Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- David MacKay (March 2012). A reality check on renewables. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
- DECC appoints new chief scientific advisor
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 2015.
- "New Year's Honours 2016 list" (pdf). GOV.UK. 30 December 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- David MacKay (7 February 2010). "David MacKay: Some biographical stuff...". web homepage. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
- Unexpected signs of malignancy, 2015-08-27
- What do you tell the children?, 2015-09-01
- Appendix Three- Correspondence, Visitors, and Gifts, 2016-04-12
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