Jacob Ziv Awarded IEEE Medal of Honor For Data Compression
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 18 January 2021

This year's IEEE Medal of Honor has been awarded to Jacob Ziv, who, with  Abraham Lempel, created two lossless compression methods (LZ-77 and LZ-78) which are the basis of a wide range of compressed file types including ZIP and GIF/PNG files.

The IEEE Medal of Honor is considered the highest honor in the field of Electrical Engineering. It has been awarded annually since 1917 to a single recipient for:

exceptional contribution(s) or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. 


Born in Tiberias, now Israel, in 1931, Ziv began his engineering career in 1955 as senior research engineer in the scientific department of the Israel Ministry of Defense, where he conducted R&D in communication systems. He then moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from MIT. After receiving his doctorate in 1962, he moved back to Israel and rejoined the Ministry of Defense as head of its communications division. After a brief return to the United States,1968-1970 working at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Ziv became a professor of electrical engineering at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. He served as dean of the EE faculty from 1974 to 1976 and vice president of the school’s academic affairs department from 1978 to 1982 and is currently Herman Gross Professor of Electrical Engineering and a Technion Distinguished Professor.

Ziv's work in data compression, devising the lossless data compression algorithms LZ77 and LZ78 were documented in two seminal papers co-authored by  Abraham Lempel  in 1977 and 1978 respectively. As explained in the IProgrammer article Data Compression The Dictionary Way, the 1977 paper started the whole subject of dictionary compression but, although it was a very theoretical sounding paper, it is an elegantly simple technique.

The importance of Ziv's work, which formed the basis for the development of later super-quick and powerful data compression methods, has been recognized several times. He was awarded the 1995 Marconi Prize, the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, and a 2017 EMET Prize—known as Israel’s Nobel Prize—in the exact sciences category. The LZ77 and LZ78 algorithms were also named an IEEE Milestone in 2004.

J Ziv




More Information

IEEE Medal of Honor Goes to Data Compression Pioneer Jacob Ziv

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Last Updated ( Monday, 18 January 2021 )