The Celebrating Mathematicians concept was born out of the department's work in Equality and Good Practice. The department aims to highlight prominent Mathematicians, both locally and around the world. Our A Celebration of Mathematicians page highlights other academics featured.
Professor Ingrid Daubechies is a Belgian physicist and mathematician. She was born 1954 as the daughter of a mining engineer in Houthalen, Belgian Limburg. She is currently a James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University.
Her interest in mathematics began at an early age. In her autobiography she recalls “when I couldn't fall asleep at night, I would compute the powers of 2 in my head: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, ... (multiplying by 2 every time). The numbers became very large very quickly but I would keep going quite a while. It was fascinating, again, to see how fast these numbers grew.”Professor Ingrid Daubechies is a Belgian physicist and mathematician. She was born 1954 as the daughter of a mining engineer in Houthalen, Belgian Limburg. She is currently a James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University.
Daubechies studied Physics at the Free University Brussels, obtaining her bachelors degree in 1975. In 1980 she was awarded her Ph.D. in physics for a thesis entitled Representation of quantum mechanical operators by kernels on Hilbert spaces of analytic functions.
Between 1981 and 1987 Daubechies continued her work as a Research Assistant at the Free University Brussels but also travelled to the United States and later took up the position of Technical Staff Member at the Mathematics Research Center of AT&T Bell Laboratories, New Jersey. In 1994 she became the first female full professor of mathematics at Princeton University. She held this position until 2010.
Daubechies’ work has focussed on researching wavelets and their use in solving the problem of separating a signal from surrounding noise or random data. In 1987 she found a way to construct wavelets that proved effective in helping computers.
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. The award honored her "for fundamental discoveries on wavelets and wavelet expansions and for her role in making wavelets methods a practical basic tool of applied mathematics". In January 2005, Daubechies became the third woman since 1924 to give the Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture sponsored by the American Mathematical Society. She is also the first woman elected president of the International Mathematical Union (2011)
“Although I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Physics, and my Ph. D. degree in Theoretical Physics, I am now generally considered to be a mathematician. I am often asked what made me switch from one field to another. In fact, if switch there was, it didn’t result from a conscious decision—it happened entirely naturally.”