Photo by YouTube/ Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques
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Ingrid Daubechies

Mathematician, Physicist, Professor

Duke University


Mathematician, Physicist, Professor


Duke University




Duke University





What makes Ingrid Daubechies a Global Shaker?

Ingrid Daubechies is one of the world’s most renowned mathematicians, best known for her work with wavelets in image compression. Her groundbreaking research has led to the classification of the Daubechies wavelets, a family of orthogonal wavelets. A wavelet from this family is now used in the JPEG 2000 standard.

Throughout her career, her work has brought life to numerous innovations, including image processing and filtering methods used in technologies from medical imaging to wireless communication. Her image processing techniques have been used to verify the age and authenticity of some of the most prestigious artists in history, such as Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt.

By using automatic methods from mathematics, biology and other technological fields, her methods have assisted in extracting vital information from teeth and bones.

“In maths, we always seek to understand magical things,” she said in an article with UNESCO. “I hope that my work will also be instrumental in helping people see that mathematics is everywhere. Identifying patterns and applying them in a different setting is very natural, very human.”

Dr Daubechies was the first woman to become president of the International Mathematics Union. During her term, she worked to expand access to science and mathematics to developing countries. She has also served as a mentor to young female scientists, trying to encourage more women to enter STEM fields as a trailblazing woman in the field.

In 2000, Dr Daubechies became the first woman to receive the National Academy of Sciences Award in Mathematics “for fundamental discoveries on wavelets and wavelet expansions and for her role in making wavelets methods a practical basic tool of applied mathematics.” In  2005, she became the third woman since 1924 to give the Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, in which she discussed  “The Interplay Between Analysis and Algorithm.” In 2019, she was given the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award for North America for her contributions to science.

“Diversity brings a wealth of ideas and more surprising ways of approaching issues, which is vital for any creative discipline,” she said. “This is now more important than ever as scientists seek to address the existential challenges facing life on Earth.”

Dr Daubechies worked as a professor at Princeton University for 16 years, serving in the department of applied and computational mathematics; she was the first female full professor of mathematics at the institution. She then moved to Duke University, where she is currently the James B. Duke professor in the department of mathematics and electrical and computer engineering. In 2016, she founded the Duke Summer Workshop in Mathematics for female rising high school seniors with Heekyoung Hahn.

The acclaimed academic has received numerous accolades for her pioneering research throughout her career. In 1984, she was given the Louis Empain Prize for Physics, which is awarded to a young Belgian Scientist every five years. She was a fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the United States National Academy of Sciences. She received the American Mathematical Society Steele Prize for Exposition for her book. She was invited to give a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich and became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Originally from Belgium, King Albert II of Belgium has granted Daubechies the title of Baroness. She became a naturalised US citizen in 1996.

Tags: Academia, Diversity and Inclusion, Maths, physics, research, STEM, Women in Science

Last updated: February 6, 2020