Lifetime Achievement Awards | 2019

Hugh Williams

University of Manitoba

Hugh Williams

Professor Williams began his academic career in 1970 as a founding member of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manitoba, where he established a highly active research program in computational number theory, cryptography and the development of special-purpose computing devices. His distinguished career of more than thirty years at the University of Manitoba included a seven-year appointment as Associate Dean of Science for Research Development.

In 2001, Professor Williams joined the University of Calgary’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics as the Alberta Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE) Chair in Algorithmic Number Theory and Cryptography. He was instrumental in recruiting a research team of exceptional quality to the institution, andestablished one of Canada’s leading research centres in cryptography and information security, serving as its director for 10 years. In 2004, he became Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba.

In 2009, Professor Williams was tasked by the Government of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to help create and lead a special Government institute with the mandate to conduct classified research in the areas of cryptology and knowledge discovery, with the primary mission of providing support for the Canadian Cryptologic Program and its international partners. Under Professor

Williams’ directorship of six years, the Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing (TIMC) became a world-class high-tech mathematical and computational research institute. TIMC recruits top researchers from Canada and beyond to work together on providing leading-edge solutions to some of the most challenging and intricate problems of our day, with real-life implications for the security of Canadians and Canada’s Allies.

Professor Williams is one of the founders of the discipline of computational number theory, introducing modern computing methods to one of the oldest areas of mathematics. The impact of his work has brought this subject to the forefront of contemporary research at the interface between mathematics and computer science. He has invented ground-breaking algorithms for solving difficult computational problems, analyzed them rigorously, and conducted extensive numerical experiments. Jointly with his students, he designed and built a suite of number sieves, which are state-of-the-art special-purpose hardware or software devices for performing number theoretic computations extremely efficiently.

Professor Williams’ work not only revolutionized the field of number theory, but he was also one of the early pioneers of mathematical public-key cryptography, paving the way for number theory to form the foundation for present-day methods for secure communication and the protection of digital information.

Several mathematical algorithms and cryptographic systems bear his name. His extensive contributions include some 200 research articles and three scholarly books, with an invited chapter to a further volume currently underway.

Professor Williams received numerous honours and awards, including a grant of $5.25 million for his iCORE Chair and recognition as Pioneer of Computing in Canada at IBM Canada’s Centre for Advanced Studies Conference in 2005.

He has been a member of many scientific advisory panels, given an impressive number of invited lectures, and served on the editorial boards of several leading scholarly journals, including the highly prestigious Mathematics of Computation.

As a long-time mentor and supporter, Professor Williams has provided valuable advice and insight into all aspects of academic life to many young academics and students. He has trained numerous students at all levels, and many of his graduate students have become recognized leaders in academia, industry and government, making prominent contributions in their respective fields. Professor Williams’ research has had a truly significant and lasting impact on the field of computing, and he has an exceptional record of distinguished service to the research community at large and to the people of Canada.

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