Dist. Prof. Jacob Ziv 1931-2023
The Technion mourns the passing of Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv
The Technion mourns the passing of Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv, one of the most renowned scientists in the field of information theory, who passed away on March 25, at the age of 91.
Prof. Ziv, Technion Alumnus and one of the greatest researchers in the history of the Technion, joined the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering 53 years ago. He had held senior positions in the Technion and the Israeli Academy. In 2021, he became the first Israeli scientist to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor for Fundamental contributions to information theory and data compression technology, and for distinguished research leadership
Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan said “the scientific contribution of Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv changed forever the way we store, process, and transfer information. He was an inspiration to all of us – a beacon of scientific excellence, a symbol of science’s great potential to ignite technological revolutions that affect all of mankind. For me, Prof. Ziv was not only an example and a role model, but also a mentor and a friend who walked beside me on my academic path at the Technion. May his memory be a blessing.”
“Prof. Ziv was a great scientist and a great man,” said Prof. Idit Keidar, dean of the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He left his mark not only on the way information is transmitted over computer networks and stored in files around the world, but also on the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, by his scientific path and his personal conduct. He taught and mentored researchers who followed in his footsteps. He led the faculty, in the capacity of dean, on the path to academic excellence. His research approach was characterized by combining deep theory with important practical applications. Prof. Ziv was an inspiration to us all. He will be missed. Together, we will continue in his path. May his memory be a blessing.”
Born in 1931, Prof. Ziv, completed a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at the Technion, followed by a doctorate at MIT (1962). After some eight years of research and development at Raphael and Bell Labs in the United States, he joined the Technion faculty. Over the years he held senior positions including Vice President of the Technion for Academic Affairs, Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, and President of the Israeli Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dist. Prof. Ziv won many prestigious awards, including the Israel Defense Award (twice), the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences (1993) the Marconi Award (1995), the Richard Heming Medal (1995), the Shannon Award (1997), the Frontiers of Knowledge Award from the BBVA Foundation (2009), and the EMET Prize (2017).
In 1977, Prof Ziv and Prof. Abraham Lempel of the Taub Faculty of Computer Science published the initial version of the Lempel-Ziv algorithm, and in 1978 the second version. Both versions served as the basis for essential compression technologies including PNG, TIFF, ZIP and GIF and played a major role in PDF (for documents) and MP3 (for music) formats. This is an information compression algorithm that enables lossless compression, regardless of the structure of the data and without prior knowledge of the statistical properties of the data. Based on this algorithm, many of the compression technologies currently used today in memory devices, computers and smartphones were developed.
The Lempel-Ziv algorithm has opened the way for unprecedented technology, enabling the transfer of visual and other information at high speed without loss of information. In 2004, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) announced that the Lempel-Ziv algorithm is “a milestone in electronics and computer engineering” and that it “made a significant contribution to making the internet an effective means of global communication.”
Dist. Prof. Ziv also participated in the development of the Wyner-Ziv algorithm in Bell Laboratories. This algorithm, which is now part of Microsoft’s operating system, allows the compression of many images from different cameras, and their simultaneous transmission (for example in sports events).
In addition to his scientific achievements, Prof. Ziv was a beloved teacher and mentor to countless students throughout his career. He will be remembered not only for his groundbreaking contributions to science, but also for his kindness, generosity, and dedication to the next generation of scientists.
Professor Jacob Ziv’s contributions to the field of information theory have left an indelible mark on the world, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations of scientists to come. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues, students, and all who knew him.