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Abraham Lempel
Abraham Lempel

Senior HP Fellow

The next time you send a "zipped" file over the Internet, give a nod of appreciation to Abraham Lempel, one of the creators of the algorithm that allows data to be compressed and transmitted over the Net efficiently and without dropping one bit along the way.

Abraham Lempel, director of HP Labs Israel, and Jacob Ziv, both professors at the Israel Institute of Technology at the time, invented the Lempel-Ziv algorithm back in computing's infancy in the late 1970s. The algorithm allows a computer to notice a repeated phrase in a string of code and replace it with a pointer a previous occurrence of the phrase, essentially saying "just repeat this." That saves a lot of space, without losing any data.

Lempel laughs at how he and Ziv never considered the potential remunerative aspects of their invention. "We got resolved to the idea that we were quite stupid for not making money off of it," he says. "We did it as an intellectual exercise. We were anxious to publish and put it in the public domain. "

As director of the Advanced Studies Program for all of Labs, Lempel has three goals: to expand our understanding of fundamental science and technology in areas of interest to HP, to make HP known throughout the world for its basic research and to increase the reputation of basic research among industrial labs. "Some labs see it as frivolous," Lempel says. "It's not. It's a legitimate and important part of a good industrial lab. "

Areas of research:
Applying discrete mathematics to problems in computer science and information theory.

M.S. and Ph.D.electrical engineering, Israel Institute of Technology (Technion).

2000 InfoWorld E-Business Innnovators Hall of Fame, Golden Jubillee Award for Technological Innnovation, IEEE Information Theory Society, Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award, Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE Fellow.

Solving any hard problem, crossword puzzles.

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