Professor Jacob Ziv, the Israeli computer pioneer whose research led to MP3 audio files, PDF documents and ZIP files, has died at the age of 91.
Together with Prof. Abraham Lempel, who passed away in February at the age of 86, he developed the Lempel-Ziv (LZ), an algorithm that compresses data, saves storage capacity, and allows for the transfer of information at high speeds.
Their research paved the way for the development of formats MP3 (digital audio), PDF (file format that captures all the elements of a printed document as an electronic image), and ZIP (archives that store multiple files).
These compression technologies are widely used today in smartphones, computers, and memory cards.
Prof. Ziv was born in Tiberias, northern Israel, in 1931, and studied electrical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, where he did pioneering research in data compression, information theory, and statistical communication theory.
He received many prestigious awards during his career, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honor in 2021, the organization’s highest honor for fundamental contributions to information theory and data compression technology. He was the first Israeli scientist to ever win this award.
“The scientific contribution of Distinguished Professor Jacob Ziv changed forever the way we store, process, and transfer information,” said Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan.
“He was an inspiration to all of us – a beacon of scientific excellence, a symbol of science’s great potential to ignite technological revolutions that affect all of mankind. For me, Prof. Ziv was not only an example and a role model, but also a mentor and a friend who walked beside me on my academic path at the Technion. May his memory be a blessing.”
The Association for Computing Machinery, the most important institute in the fields of computing and computer science, paid tribute to Professors Ziv and Lempel’s joint contribution.
It said: “The impact of Professors Lempel and Ziv’s work is so immense that current research in the field is still vibrant as it was decades ago, and every year we see more theoretical and practical researchers working on the expansion and development of the elegant idea that the two presented.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the compression technologies that emerged from the research of Lempel and Ziv have accelerated mobile computing and multimedia applications and made them economically viable.”