Stephen Cole Kleene

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Stephen Cole Kleene (January 5, 1909, Hartford, Connecticut, United States – January 25, 1994, Madison, Wisconsin) was an American mathematician who helped lay the foundations for theoretical computer science. One of many distinguished students of Alonzo Church, Kleene, along with Alan Turing, Emil Post, and others, is best known as a founder of the branch of mathematical logic known as recursion theory. Kleene's work grounds the study of which functions are computable. A number of mathematical concepts are named after him: Kleene hierarchy, Kleene algebra, the Kleene star (Kleene closure), Kleene's recursion theorem and the Kleene fixpoint theorem. He also invented regular expressions, and was a leading American advocate of mathematical intuitionism.

Kleene pronounced his last name /ˈkleɪniː/ KLAY-nee; /ˈkliːniː/ and /ˈkliːn/ are common mispronunciations. (His son, Ken Kleene, wrote: "As far as I am aware this pronunciation is incorrect in all known languages. I believe that this novel pronunciation was invented by my father.")



Kleene was awarded the BA degree from Amherst College in 1930. He was awarded the Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1934. His thesis, entitled A Theory of Positive Integers in Formal Logic, was supervised by Alonzo Church. In the 1930s, he did important work on Church's lambda calculus. In 1935, he joined the mathematics department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he spent nearly all of his career. After two years as an instructor, he was appointed assistant professor in 1937.

While a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, 1939-40, he laid the foundation for recursion theory, an area that would be his lifelong research interest. In 1941, he returned to Amherst College, where he spent one year as an associate professor of mathematics.

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