Robert Tarjan

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Robert Endre Tarjan (born April 30, 1948) is a renowned American computer scientist. He is the discoverer of several important graph algorithms, including Tarjan's off-line least common ancestors algorithm, and co-inventor of both splay trees and Fibonacci heaps. Tarjan is currently the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, and is also a Senior Fellow at Hewlett-Packard.[1]

He was born in Pomona, California.



Robert Tarjan's father was a child psychiatrist specializing in mental retardation, and ran a state hospital.[2] As a child, Tarjan read a lot of science fiction, and wanted to be an astronomer. He became interested in mathematics after reading Martin Gardner's mathematical games column in Scientific American. He became seriously interested in math in the eighth grade, thanks to a "very stimulating" teacher.[3]

While he was in high school, Tarjan got a job, where he worked IBM card punch collators. He first worked with real computers while studying astronomy at the Summer Science Program in 1964.[2]

Tarjan obtained a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1969. At Stanford University, he received his Master's degree in computer science in 1971 and a Ph.D. in computer science (with a minor in mathematics) in 1972. At Stanford, he was supervised by Robert Floyd[4] and Donald Knuth, both highly prominent computer scientists, and his Ph.D. dissertation was An Efficient Planarity Algorithm. Tarjan selected computer science as his area of interest because he believed that CS was a way of doing mathematics that could have a practical impact.[5]

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