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Richard Wesley Hamming

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11 Feb 1915

Chicago, Illinois, USA

7 Jan 1998

Monterey, California, USA

Presentation Wikipedia
Richard Hamming entered the University of Chicago receiving his B.S. in 1937. He then went to the University of Nebraska where he was awarded his M.A. in 1939 and then he received his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1942 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His doctoral dissertation Some Problems in the Boundary Value Theory of Linear Differential Equations was supervised by Waldemar Trjitzinsky.

In 1945 Hamming joined the Manhattan Project, a U.S. government research project to produce an atomic bomb. It was called the Manhattan Project because the first research had been done at Columbia University in Manhattan, however Hamming worked on the project at Los Alamos.

After the end of World War II, Hamming joined the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1946. While there he was able to work with both Shannon and Tukey . He was to continue to work for Bell Telephones until 1976 when he accepted a chair of computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California.

Hamming is best known for his work on error- detecting and error- correcting codes. His fundamental paper on this topic appeared in 1950 and with this he started a new subject within information theory. Hamming codes are of fundamental importance in coding theory and are of practical use in computer design.

Work in codes is related to packing problems and error- correcting codes due to Hamming led to the solution of a packing problem for matrices over finite fields.

In 1956 Hamming worked on the early computer, the IBM 650. His work here led to the development of a programming language which has evolved into the high-level computer languages used to program computers today.

Hamming also worked on numerical analysis, integrating differential equations, and the Hamming spectral window which is much used in computation for smoothing data before Fourier analysing it.

His major works include Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers (1962), Introduction to applied numerical analysis (1971), Digital filters (1977), Coding and information theory (1980), Methods of mathematics applied to calculus, probability , and statistics (1985), Introduction to applied numerical analysis (1989), The Art of Probability for Scientists and Engineers (1991) and The Art of Doing Science and Engineering : Learning to Learn (1997).

Hamming has received many awards for his pioneering work. In 1968 he was made a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and awarded the Turing Prize from the Association for Computing Machinery. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers awarded Hamming the Emanuel R Piore Award in 1979 and a medal in 1988:

For exceptional contributions to information sciences and systems.

The IEEE have named this medal "the Hamming Medal" in his honour.

Further honours included being elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1980 and receiving the Harold Pender Award from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. In 1996, in Munich, Hamming received the prestigious $130,000 Eduard Rheim Award for Achievement in Technology for his work on error correcting codes.

On Hamming's death Richard Franke of the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey wrote:

He will be long remembered for his keen insights into many facets of science and computation. I'll also long long remember him for his red plaid sport coat and his bad jokes.

James F Kaiser, in a brief obituary of Hamming, writes:

We will all miss his engaging mind and his penetrating insight into matters scientific, engineering, and of everyday living.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland