Great names of innovation: Shafi Goldwasser
“Hello”, I’m Shafi Goldwasser, a computer scientist and a pioneer of modern cryptography.
Born in 1959, I grew up between Tel-Aviv and the United States. As a child, I enjoyed deciphering the world with words and stories. I dreamt of becoming a writer but, gradually, it was the language of numbers that aroused my curiosity.
At the end of the 1970s, encouraged by my teachers, I turned towards mathematics where, a bit by chance, I ended up specializing in computer science, which at the time was a completely new field. I realized that I love dissecting theories, especially in this digital environment.
One specific concept to fascinate me was that of “mental poker”. Essentially, it asks the following question: how to play poker remotely with the help of a computer verification?
The problem then concerns the security of messages exchanged and therefore cryptography.
As a Berkeley PhD student in the early 1980s, I shared the same thesis supervisor as Silvio Micali. Together we wrote an innovative cryptosystem called “public key”. Its particularity? It is based on random, rather than fixed, security encryption of the hidden information.
In 1985, we continued our work by laying the foundations of the ZKP, for “Zero-Knowledge Proof”, cryptosystem. In this system, a “prover” mathematically demonstrates to another party, the “verifier”, that a piece of information is true, without revealing other elements.
Today, this work has a wide range of applications that you probably use, from simple online payment to cryptocurrency authentication, through personal data protection.
Throughout the decades, I have received many awards for my research work, including the prestigious A.M. Turing Award, becoming the third female researcher in history to receive it.