David Slepian

David Slepian
Born (1923-06-30)June 30, 1923
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died November 29, 2007(2007-11-29) (aged 84)
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Bell Telephone Laboratories
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Michigan
Thesis  (1949)
Known for Algebraic coding theory
Notable awards IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal (1981)
IEEE Centennial Medal (1984)

David S. Slepian (June 30, 1923 November 29, 2007) was an American mathematician. He is best known for his work with algebraic coding theory, probability theory, and distributed source coding. He was colleagues with Claude Shannon and Richard Hamming at Bell Labs.

Life and work

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he gained a B.Sc. at University of Michigan before joining the US Army in World War II, as a Sonic deception officer in the Ghost army. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1949, writing his dissertation in physics. After post-doctoral work at the University of Cambridge and University of Sorbonne, he worked at the Mathematics Research Center at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he pioneered work in algebraic coding theory on group codes, first published in the paper A Class of Binary Signaling Alphabets. Here, he also worked along with other information theory giants such as Claude Shannon and Richard Hamming. He also proved the possibility of singular detection, a perhaps unintuitive result. He is also known for Slepian's lemma in probability theory (1962), and for discovering a fundamental result in distributed source coding called Slepian–Wolf coding with Jack Keil Wolf (1973).

He later joined the University of Hawaii. His father was Joseph Slepian, also a scientist.[1] His wife is the noted children's author Jan Slepian.


Three examples of Slepians, named after David Slepian.

Slepian's joint work with H.J. Landau and H.O. Pollak on discrete prolate spheroidal wave functions and sequences (DPSWF, DPSS) eventually led to the naming of the sequences as `Slepians' [2] [3] [4] [5] .[6] The naming suggestion was provided by Bob Parker of Scripp's Institute of Oceanography, who suggested that `discrete prolate spheroidal sequences' was a `mouthful'. This work was fundamental to the development of the multitaper, where the discrete form are used as an integral component.



Preceded by
Richard R. Hough
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal
Succeeded by
Harold Rosen
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