SVM operates on the principle of margin maximization, aiming to find the hyperplane that has the maximum distance to the nearest training data point of any class, thus ensuring the separation is as clear as possible. It is particularly effective in high-dimensional spaces and versatile in handling various types of data through the use of different kernel functions, such as linear, polynomial, and radial basis function (RBF), which allow the algorithm to adapt the hyperplane in the feature space to the complexity of the data distribution.

Historical overview: SVM was developed in the 1960s at AT&T Bell Laboratories by Vladimir Vapnik and Alexey Chervonenkis. It gained popularity in the 1990s when Vapnik and others developed the soft margin and kernel trick methods, which enhanced its applicability to a broader range of problems.

Key contributors: The key figures in the development of SVM include Vladimir Vapnik and Alexey Chervonenkis, the originators of the concept. Vapnik, in particular, played a crucial role in the expansion of SVM through his later work on the statistical learning theory, which provided a theoretical foundation for the model’s generalization capabilities.