“For the development of statistical learning theory, the theoretical foundations for machine learning, and support vector machines,” Vladimir Vapnik has been awarded this year’s IEEE John von Neumann Medal. Named in honor of the mathematician John von Neumann, the medal was established by the IEEE in 1990 to recognize individuals who have contributed outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology.
For four decades, Vapnik has worked on learning theory related problems and in the field of theoretical and applied statistics, publishing six monographs and over a hundred research papers. He is probably best known as the co-inventor of support vector machines, which are widely used for analyzing text, images, and other content. He is also one of the main developers of the Vapnik–Chervonenkis theory of statistical learning, which measures the capacity of a learning machine.
As of November 2016, Vapnik’s publications have been cited 175,602 times and his h-index stands at 112.
A professor of Computer Science at Columbia since 2003, Vapnik previously worked at the Institute of Control Sciences, Moscow (1961 to 1990), where he became Head of the Computer Science Research Department. After moving to the US in 1990, he went to work at AT&T Bell Labs; it was at AT&T that he and his colleagues developed the theory of support vector machines. In 1995 he was appointed Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at Royal Holloway. After leaving AT&T in 2002, he also worked at NEC Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, working in the Machine Learning group.
In 2006 Vapnik was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for “insights into the fundamental complexities of learning and for inventing practical and widely applied machine-learning algorithms.” Other awards accorded Vapnik: the 2005 Gabor Award, the 2008 Paris Kanellakis Award, the 2010 Neural Networks Pioneer Award, the 2012 IEEE Frank Rosenblatt Award, the 2012 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science from the Franklin Institute, and the 2014 Kampé de Fériet Award.
For Vapnik’s 75th birthday anniversary, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems organized in December 2011 the Empirical Inference Symposium.
Vapnik continues to research new topics and in November 2014 joined Facebook AI Research where he will collaborate with research scientists there to develop some of his ideas.