Prof. Adi Shamir, a computer scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has been named a 2002 winner of the A.M. Turing Award, regarded in academic circles as the 'Nobel Prize' of computer science.
Shamir shares the award with Ronald L. Rivest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Leonard M. Adleman of the University of Southern California. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) will present the award to them in June.
While working at M.I.T. in 1977, the three scientists developed an algorithm that was later called RSA (the acronym for their last names). Used worldwide to secure Internet, banking and credit card transactions, the RSA algorithm allows for the delivery of encrypted codes and their decryption between parties that have never previously been in contact. The time needed to crack some versions of the method, which is based on the multiplication of two very large prime numbers and the difficulty in deducing those prime numbers from their product, is estimated at millions of years.
Among the numerous applications of this research are smart cards, regularly installed in household television sets to ensure that only subscribers receive TV satellite broadcasts. The smart card also allows the company activating the satellite to charge its customers only for programs viewed by them.
Shamir began his acquaintance with the Weizmann Institute as a teenager participating in its youth activities. He later earned his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at the Weizmann Institute of Science and went to M.I.T., where he spent three years, from 1977 to 1980. He then returned to the Weizmann Institute, publishing numerous articles and receiving several prestigious awards, including ACM's Kannelakis Award, the Erdos Prize of the Israel Mathematical Society, the IEEE's W.R.G. Baker Prize, the UAP Scientific Prize, The Vatican's PIUS XI Gold Medal and the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award.
Second Winner at Weizmann, Third in Israel
The A.M. Turing Award was conferred on Prof. Amir Pnueli, also a Weizmann Institute computer scientist, in 1996 for his contributions to program and systems verification. Prof. Michael Rabin from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University received the award in 1976 for his research on nondeterministic machines. The award has been presented annually since 1966 to individuals who have made contributions of 'lasting and major technical importance' in the field of computer science.
The English mathematician Alan Turing, for whom the prize is named, is known, among other things, for the system he developed (called 'Bomba'), which succeeded in cracking the German coding system 'Engima' during World War II. Many historians believe that this work actually decided the Battle of the Atlantic in favor of the Allies.
Prof. Shamir's research is supported by Mr. Mickey Cohen, Director of Technologies, SoftChip Technologies (3000) Ltd., Mr. Junichi Hattori, Executive Vice President, SII-Seiko Instruments Inc., Mr. Takeo Hiyama, President/CEO, Abit Corp., and Ms. Yuko Ishida, Preisdent/CEO, Japan Datacom.
Prof. Shamir is the incumbent of the Paul & Marlene Borman Professorial Chair of Applied Mathematics
The Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's foremost centers of scientific research and graduate study. Its 2,500 scientists, students, technicians, and engineers pursue basic research in the quest for knowledge and the enhancement of humanity. New ways of fighting disease and hunger, protecting the environment, and harnessing alternative sources of energy are high priorities at Weizmann.
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