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Richard W. Hamming

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Richard W. Hamming

Richard Wesley Hamming
File:Richard Hamming.jpg
Born (1915-02-11)February 11, 1915
Chicago, Illinois
Died January 7, 1998(1998-01-07) (aged 82)
Monterey, California
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Institutions University of Louisville
Manhattan Project
Bell Telephone Laboratories
Naval Postgraduate School
Alma mater University of Chicago
University of Nebraska
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Doctoral advisor Waldemar Trjitzinsky
Known for Hamming code
Hamming window
Hamming numbers
Hamming distance
Association for Computing Machinery
Influenced David J. Farber
Notable awards Turing Award (1968)

Richard Wesley Hamming (February 11, 1915 – 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.[1] 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.

Awards and professional recognition

The IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal, named after him, is an award given annually by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), for "exceptional contributions to information sciences, systems and technology", and he was the first recipient of this medal.[9]


  • Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers, McGraw-Hill, 1962; second edition 1973. Dover paperback reprint: .
  • Calculus and the Computer Revolution, Houghton-Mifflin, 1968.
  • Introduction To Applied Numerical Analysis, McGraw-Hill, 1971.
  • Computers and Society, McGraw-Hill, 1972.
  • Digital Filters, Prentice Hall, 1977; second edition 1983; third edition 1989; Paperback reprint:
  • Coding and Information Theory, Prentice Hall 1980; second edition 1986.
  • Methods of Mathematics Applied to Calculus, Probability, and Statistics, Prentice Hall, 1985. Paperback reprint:
    Unconventional introductory textbook which attempts to both teach calculus and give some idea of what it is good for at the same time. Might be of special interest to someone teaching an introductory calculus course using a conventional textbook, in order to pick up some new pedagogical viewpoints.
  • The Art of Probability for Scientists and Engineers, Addison-Wesley, 1991; Paperback reprint:
  • Entertaining and instructive. Hamming tries to extract general lessons—both personal and technical – to aid one in having a successful technical career by telling stories from his own experiences.
    (Some of this material relating to the self-management of one's technical career can be found online in You and Your Research, (Hamming 1986).)
    One of Hamming's lessons is never trust without question someone who claims to be giving you highly accurate data to analyze – not because they're deliberately lying to you but because the data is never as accurate as people think.


  • Hamming discusses the use and potential of computers in the 1965 film Logic By Machine.


  • Hamming, Richard (1997). "The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn"


External links

  • .
  • Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • New York Times obituary

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