Prof. Abraham Lempel, an Israeli computer scientist considered one of the fathers of data compression and the man who changed the field of computer science, died on Sunday at age 87.
Lampel made Aliyah from Poland and in 1959 began his studies at the Technion, where he completed three academic degrees in eight years. In 1977, with his colleague Professor Yaacob Ziv, Lempel published LZ7, the first version of the Lampel-Ziv algorithm, and in 1979 the second version, 79LZ. Both versions, under the designation LZ algorithm, served as the basis for critical and popular compression technologies that are still widely used today such as TIFF, PNG, ZIP, and GIF, and played a central role in PDF (for documents) and MP3 (for music) formats.
The algorithm developed by Lempel and Ziv allows lossless compression, sans prior knowledge of the statistical properties of the data. Many of the compression technologies used today on the Internet in memory devices, computers, and communications were developed based on the algorithm, and the algorithm still influences the giants of technology and billions of cell phone users.
Lempel was the recipient of the 1998 Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation from the IEEE Information Theory Society; and the 2007 IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal for “pioneering work in data compression, especially the Lempel-Ziv algorithm.”
Lampel served as Dean of the Computer Science Dept. at the Technion between 1981 and 1984. In 1993, he moved to the private market and established HP’s first operation in Israel, which included labs in Haifa that Lempel managed until 2007. During his time at HP, the company registered eight patents in his name in the US.