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Welcome to History of Data Science. Discover the stories of heroes who transformed our daily lives!

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Shafrira Goldwasser: Cryptography Pioneer

4 min read
Shafrira Goldwasser (1959) is an Israeli American computer scientist, winner of the Turing Award in 2012, and RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. She is also the inventor of several revolutionary cryptographic technologies including probabilistic encryption, multi-party secure protocols, and pseudo-random function.

Upon obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in 1979 in mathematics and science from Carnegie Mellon University, New York-born Shafi pursued postgraduate study in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

She began her career at MIT in 1983 and, by 1997, had become the first holder of the RSA Professorship. Other academic roles have included professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and member of the theory of computation group at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Securing the Future of Computers

Specializing in computational complexity theory, cryptography, and computational number theory, she is a prolific inventor. She is behind probabilistic encryption, the gold standard for data encryption security. She also developed zero-knowledge proofs — now at the heart of cryptographic protocols — that probabilistically and interactively demonstrate the validity of an assertion without conveying any additional knowledge.

Her work in complexity theory includes the classification of approximation problems and pioneering methods for delegating computations to untrusted servers. Her work in number theory includes the invention, with Joe Kilian, of primality proving using elliptic curves.

“I am enthusiastic about the prospect of applying advances from cryptographic theory to practice, to enable the full potential of data-driven algorithms — the combustion engine of the future.”

She has also dabbled in the private sector. She is Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of Duality Technologies, a U.S.-based start-up offering secure data analytics using advanced cryptographic techniques. She is also scientific advisor for several security-related technology startups.

Her groundbreaking work in cryptography has enabled secure communication and verification over the internet and collaborative computation on private data. In 2005, Goldwasser was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to cryptography, number theory, and complexity theory and their applications to privacy and security. In 2012, she was co-recipient of the Turing Award.