Harvard Presents Ingrid Daubechies With Honorary Degree

Ingrid Daubechies pathbreaking work on wavelet theory has led to uses that are part of everyday life.

Ingrid Daubechies, the James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke and one of the world’s leading mathematicians, received an honorary degree from Harvard University at its commencement ceremony May 30.

Daubechies was one of nine honorary degree recipients; others included German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Lonnie G. Bunch III, the newly named director of the Smithsonian Institute; former Harvard President and noted historian Drew Faust; and New Yorker editor and author David Remnick.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, Daubechies is well known for her discovery and mathematical analysis of compactly supported wavelets, which are fundamental to the image compression technology that has revolutionized the use of JPGs and other digital image formats.

Daubechies’ current research focuses on the development of analytic and geometric tools for the comparison of surfaces, an understanding that is central to many scientific disciplines and to the construction of video animations and many medical and biological applications.

In addition, she is well known for her efforts to promote mathematics education, not just in the United States but globally, particularly efforts that promote the contributions of women mathematicians. This past May, she served as the faculty sponsor when Duke awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Caroline Series, professor emerita at the University of Warwick, a pioneering mathematician who was the first woman to be awarded a chaired professorship of mathematics in the United Kingdom system.

For more about Daubechies' work, a new article by the Flatiron Institute talks with her about wavelet research.