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David Huffman
Born August 9, 1925(1925-08-09)
Died October 7, 1999 (aged 74)
Residence USA
Fields Information theory, Coding theory
Alma mater Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisor Samuel H. Caldwell
Known for Huffman code

David Albert Huffman (August 9, 1925 – October 7, 1999) was a pioneer in the computer science field.

Throughout his life, Huffman made significant contributions to the study of finite state machines, switching circuits, synthesis procedures, and signal designs. However, David Huffman is best known for the invention of Huffman code, a highly important compression scheme for lossless variable length encoding. It was the result of a term paper he wrote while a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned a D.Sc. degree on a thesis named The Synthesis of Sequential Switching Circuits, advised by Samuel H. Caldwell (1953).[1]

"Huffman Codes" are used in nearly every application that involves the compression and transmission of digital data, such as fax machines, modems, computer networks, and high-definition television (HDTV), to name a few.



A native of Ohio, Huffman earned his B.S. in electrical engineering from Ohio State University at the age of 18 in 1944. He then served in the U.S. Navy as a radar maintenance officer on a destroyer that helped to clear mines in Japanese and Chinese waters after World War II. He subsequently earned his M.S. degree from Ohio State in 1949 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1953, also in electrical engineering.

Huffman joined the faculty at MIT in 1953. In 1967, he went to University of California, Santa Cruz as the founding faculty member of the Computer Science Department. He played a major role in the development of the department's academic programs and the hiring of its faculty, and served as chair from 1970 to 1973. He retired in 1994, but remained active as an emeritus professor, teaching information theory and signal analysis courses.

Huffman made important contributions in many other areas, including information theory and coding, signal designs for radar and communications applications, and design procedures for asynchronous logical circuits. As an outgrowth of his work on the mathematical properties of "zero curvature Gaussian" surfaces, Huffman developed his own techniques for folding paper into unusual sculptured shapes (which gave rise to the field of computational origami).

Huffman's accomplishments earned him numerous awards and honors. Most recently, he received the 1999 Richard Hamming Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in recognition of his exceptional contributions to information sciences. He also received the Louis E. Levy Medal of the Franklin Institute for his doctoral thesis on sequential switching circuits, a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Ohio State University, and the W. Wallace McDowell Award. He was a charter recipient of the Computer Pioneer Award from the IEEE Computer Society, and he received a Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation from the IEEE Information Theory Society in 1998.

David Huffman died in 1999 after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was survived by his wife, Marilyn Huffman, of Santa Cruz; his former wife, Jane Ayres Huffman; their three children, Elise, Linda, and Stephen Huffman, all of Santa Cruz; a son-in-law, Jeff Grubb, of Santa Cruz; a stepdaughter, Marti Homer Kehlet, of Sacramento, her husband, Daret, and their daughter, Karsen; a stepson, Darin Homer of Prunedale, his wife, Jane, and their son, Ryan; and a brother, Donald Huffman, of Westerville, Ohio, his wife, Jean, and their family.

Huffman never tried to patent an invention from his work. Instead, he concentrated his efforts on education. In Huffman's words, "My products are my students."

Discovery of Huffman Codes

Huffman discovered the Huffman code while a graduate student at MIT as part of a term paper for Robert Fano's class. In Fano's words- 1950, I started teaching a graduate subject on information theory, and one of the students was named Dave Huffman, who wrote a term paper. I had given a number of possible topics. One of them was that while I developed the form of encoding, that did not assure that the coding would be optimum. Shannon, who at that time was at Bell Laboratories, was not sure. So I raised the question. I said, "It would be nice to know an optimum way of encoding." All of which Huffman developed as a term paper that he published, of course.[2]

Articles about Huffman

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David Huffman
Born David Oliver Huffman
May 10, 1945(1945-05-10)
Berwyn, Illinois, U.S.
Died February 27, 1985 (aged 39)
San Diego, California
Occupation Actor
Years active 1969–1984
Spouse Phyllis Huffman (30 December 1967 - 27 February 1985) (his death) 2 children

David Huffman was a supporting actor with many television, film and stage credits. He was married to award winning casting director Phyllis Huffman until he was murdered in 1985.[1]



Huffman was murdered by a thief in San Diego, California. After bringing cookies to a wrap party for the show Of Mice and Men at the Old Globe Theater, he spotted and chased the thief (who had broken into a Canadian couple's motor-home) into a Balboa Park canyon. He was stabbed twice with a screwdriver. The murderer was sentenced to 26 years in prison in 1986. David was set to begin work on the television miniseries North and South the following week.

Selected filmography



External links


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