Israeli scientist wins Japan Prize for cryptography work

Computer science professor Adi Shamir, of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, recognized as pioneer in digital information security

Renowned Israeli cryptographer Adi Shamir. (YouTube screen capture)
Renowned Israeli cryptographer Adi Shamir. (YouTube screen capture)

An Israeli computer scientist was among three winners of the 2017 Japan Prize, an award honoring achievement in science and technology, for his work in the field of cryptography.

Adi Shamir, a professor at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, was recognized for his “[c]ontribution to information security through pioneering research on cryptography,” according to the prize’s website. The Japan Prize Foundation announced the awards Thursday.

Shamir, 64, is the second Israeli to win the prize. Ephraim Katzir, a biophysicist and former Israeli president, was honored in 1985, the inaugural year of the award.

In 2002 Shamir, with Ronald Rivest and Leonard Adleman, won the Turing Award, widely considered to be the world’s most prestigious computer science prize.

“My main area of research is cryptography — making and breaking codes,” Shamir explains on the Weizmann website. “It is motivated by the explosive growth of computer networks and wireless communication. Without cryptographic protection, confidential information can be exposed to eavesdroppers, modified by hackers, or forged by criminals.”

The Japan Prize Foundation selected Shamir and the other two winners — Emmanuelle Carpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, and Jennifer Doudna, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, for their research in gene editing — from 13,000 nominations.

The winners will each receive the yen equivalent of approximately $443,000. They will be honored in Tokyo on April 19.

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