Alonzo Church

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Alonzo Church (June 14, 1903 – August 11, 1995) was an American mathematician and logician who made major contributions to mathematical logic and the foundations of theoretical computer science. He is best known for the lambda calculus, Church–Turing thesis, Frege–Church ontology, and the Church–Rosser theorem.



Alonzo Church was born on June 14, 1903 in Washington, D.C. where his father, Samuel Robbins Church, was the Justice of the Municipal Court for the District of Columbia. The family later moved to Virginia after his father lost this position because of failing eyesight. With help from his uncle, also named Alonzo Church, he was able to attend the Ridgefield School for Boys in Ridgefield, Connecticut.[1] After graduating from Ridgefield in 1920, Church attended Princeton University where he was an exceptional student, publishing his first paper, on Lorentz transformation, and graduating in 1924 with a degree in mathematics. He stayed on at Princeton, earning a Ph.D. in mathematics in three years under Oswald Veblen.

He married Mary Julia Kuczinski in 1925 and the couple had three children, Alonzo Church, Jr. (1929), Mary Ann (1933) and Mildred (1938).

After receiving his Ph.D. he taught briefly as an instructor at the University of Chicago and then received a two-year National Research Fellowship. This allowed him to attend Harvard University in 1927–1928 and then both University of Göttingen and University of Amsterdam the following year. He taught at Princeton, 1929–1967, and at the University of California, Los Angeles, 1967–1990. In 1990, he received the Doctor Honoris Causa from the State University of New York at Buffalo in connection with an international symposium in his honor organized by John Corcoran.[2] He had previously received honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University (1969) and Princeton University (1985).[3]

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