(26 August 1935 - 4 April 2007)
Karen Spärck Jones was Professor of Computing and Information at the University of Cambridge and one of the most remarkable women in computer science.
A Fellow of the British Academy, of which she was Vice-President from 2000 to 2002, she had a long, rich and remarkable career as a pioneer of information science from the very early days of computing.
She worked in automatic language and information processing research since the late 1950s when she co-authored a paper in one of the great founding collections of the discipline, the Proceedings of the 1958 International Conference on Scientific Information in Washington, DC.
Professor Spärck Jones made outstanding theoretical contributions to information retrieval and natural language processing and built upon this theoretical framework through numerous experiments. She introduced Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) term weighting, which has been adopted as standard in modern systems, including web search engines.
This is a statistical measure used to evaluate how important a word is to a document; it is often used by search engines to score and rank a document’s relevance to a search query. Her work is among the most highly cited in the field and has influenced a whole generation of researchers and practitioners.
She received several major awards for her research including, in 2004, the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2007, the BCS Lovelace medal and the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) / AAAI Allen Newell Award.