Richard Hamming

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Richard Wesley Hamming (Chicago, February 11, 1915 – Monterey, California, January 7, 1998) was an American mathematician whose work had many implications for computer science and telecommunications. His contributions include the Hamming code (which makes use of a Hamming matrix), the Hamming window (described in Section 5.8 of his book Digital Filters), Hamming numbers, Sphere-packing (or hamming bound) and the Hamming distance.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1937, a master's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1939, and finally a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1942. He was a professor at the University of Louisville during World War II, and left to work on the Manhattan Project in 1945, programming one of the earliest electronic digital computers to calculate the solution to equations provided by the project's physicists. The objective of the program was to discover if the detonation of an atomic bomb would ignite the atmosphere.[citation needed] The result of the computation was that this would not occur, and so the United States used the bomb, first in a test in New Mexico, and then twice against Japan. Later, from 1946 to 1976, he worked at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he collaborated with Claude E. Shannon. During this period, he was an Adjunct Professor at the City College of New York, School of Engineering. On July 23, 1976 he moved to the Naval Postgraduate School, where he worked as an Adjunct Professor until 1997, when he became Professor Emeritus. He died a year later in 1998.

He was a founder and president of the Association for Computing Machinery. His philosophy on scientific computing appears as preface to his 1962 book on numerical methods: The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.


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