David Donoho is the recipient of the 2018 Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize, the major prize in applied mathematics awarded jointly by the International Mathematical Union (IMU) and the German Mathematical Union. Bestowed every four years since 2006, the prize honors scientists whose mathematical research has generated important applications beyond the mathematical field—in technology, in business, or in people’s everyday lives—and this award acknowledges David’s impact on a whole generation of mathematical scientists.

David Donoho. Photo: IMU


David Donoho was commended by the IMU President Shigefumi Mori for his “fundamental contribution to mathematics” during the opening ceremony of ICM 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After the award was announced, David spoke of the joy he has experienced when theories he has developed earlier in his career are applied to everyday life. “There are things I’ve done decades ago, and when I see things happen in the real world, it makes me so proud. The power we have in moving the world gives me a great deal of satisfaction in my career choice.”

He said that a career in math is not limited to pure math, and publication in journals. “There are so many relations between math and the rest of the world. We see more and more relations over time; so much in the modern world is underpinned by math,” he said, citing the example of smartphones, and the vast level of mathematical fundamentals intertwined, such as prime factorization.

David Donoho, who was born in California in 1957, dedicates his professional life to statistics, information theory and applied mathematics. He has made fundamental contributions to theoretical and computational statistics throughout his career, as well as to signal processing and harmonic analysis. His algorithms have made significant contributions to the understanding of the maximum entropy principle, the structure of robust procedures, and sparse data description.

David Donoho is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the Humanities and Sciences, and Professor of Statistics, at Stanford University; he previously taught at UC Berkeley, and he holds a summa cum laude degree from Princeton University, as well as a PhD in statistics from Harvard University. He has worked in various industries, including oil exploitation, information technology, and quantitative finance. He has previously been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship (1991), the COPSS Presidents’ Award (1994), the Norbert Wiener (2010), and the Shaw Prize (2013).

The Gauss prize is a tribute to the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855), who made important contributions to number theory, statistics, mathematical analysis, differential geometry, geophysics, astronomy and optics.