Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Balancing family and work has always seemed to me to be one of the greatest (though by no means only) challenges facing women in mathematics.  So for my Ada Lovelace Day Biography I chose a woman who has managed to do just that, and do it well.  Ingrid Daubechies is a mother, a wife, and pioneer in the field of applied mathematics.  She is, in my opinion, an inspiration to women looking to pursue careers in the field of Mathematics.

Born in Belgium, Ingrid Daubechies earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels in 1980.  In 1984 she was awarded the Louis Empain Prize for Physics, which is given out once every five years to an outstanding Belgian scientist for work done under the age of 29.  Daubechies moved to the United States in 1987, the same year she developed one of the most common wavelets used in image compression.  She worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories until 1994, when she received the American Mathematical Society’s Steele Prize for Exposition for her book Ten Lectures on Wavelets.  

In 1993 she became the first female full professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, where she is still active in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics.  In 1997 she was awarded the AMS Ruth Lyttle Satter prize, granted biannually to women in Mathematics, she was also elected to the US National Academy of Arts and Sciences that year.  In 2000 Daubechies became the first woman to receive the National Academy of Sciences Award in Mathematics, presented every 4 years for excellence in published mathematical research, for her "fundamental discoveries on wavelets and wavelet expansions and for her role in making wavelets methods a practical basic tool of applied mathematics."  

The Pioneer Prize from the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics was awarded jointly to Ingrid Daubechies and Heinz Engl in 2006.  The wavelets she developed have “found widespread use in image processing and time frequency analysis,” and are now standard in data compression.  In addition to her brilliant work as a mathematician and scientist, Daubechies has been happily married since 1987 to her husband Robert Calderbank, also a mathematician, and is the devoted mother of two children.


1. What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Vol 2. (1994), p23.

2. Von Baeyer, Christian. "Wave of the future," Discover, May 1995, 68-74.

3. Kort, Edith. "Ingrid Daubechies," Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary, Charlene Morrow and Teri Perl, Editors, Greenwood Press, 1998, 34-38.

4. Ingrid Daubechies' Personal Biography

5. Daubechies, Ingrid. "Thought Problems," an autobiographical essay in Complexities: Women in Mathematics, Bettye Anne Case and Anne Leggett, Editors, Princeton University Press (2005), 358-361.

6. Haunsperger, Deanna and Stephen Kennedy. "Coal Miner's Daughter," Math Horizons, Mathematical Assocation of America, April 2000, 5-9 and 28-30.

7. "Ingrid Daubechies Receives NAS Award in Mathematics," Notices of the American Mathematical Society, May 2000, p571.

8.  Mathematics Genealogy Project

9 Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive

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