• 1932 February 29
    (b.) -
    2007 November 16


A Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science (and, by courtesy, of Electrical Engineering) at Stanford University, he was one of the preeminent numerical analysts of his generation. Born in Chicago, he was educated at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, receiving his B.S. degree in 1953, his M.A. degree in 1954; and his Ph.D. in 1959 - all in Mathematics. His M.A. degree was more specifically in Mathematical Statistics. His Ph.D. dissertation was entitled "The Use of Chebyshev Matrix Polynomials in the Iterative Solution of Linear Equations Compared to the Method of Successive Overrelaxation". His Ph.D. advisor was Abraham Taub, who was influenced in turn by John von Neumann and became the general editor of John van Neumann?s 6 volume biography. During his final year as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois he had the opportunity to observe Ralph Meager and David Wheeler as they worked on the design and subsequent construction of the ILLIAC computer. In 1959 he received an NFS Fellowship and worked as a fellow at the Mathematical Laboratory at University of Cambridge for 15 months. He worked for several industrial companies, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, and Space Technology Laboratories before he returned to academia. In 1962, he joined the faculty of Stanford as a visiting Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Division and became a Professor in 1970. He joined the newly formed Computer Science Department and was Chairman of the department from 1981 to 1985. He had advised more than thirty doctoral students, many of whom have themselves achieved distinction. He was an important figure in numerical analysis and pivotal to creating the NA-Net and the NA-Digest, as well as the International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics. One of his best-known books is Matrix Computations, co-authored with Charles F. Van Loan. He was a major contributor to algorithms for matrix decompositions. In particular he co-published an algorithm together with William Kahan in 1970 that made the computation of the singular value decomposition (SVD) feasible and that is still used today. A survey of his work was published in 2007 by Oxford University Press as "Milestones in Matrix Computation". He was awarded the B. Bolzano Gold Medal for Merits in the Field of Mathematical Sciences and was one of the few elected to three national academies: the National Academy of Sciences (1993), the National Academy of Engineering (1990), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994). He was also a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (1986). He is listed as an ISI highly cited researcher. He held 11 honorary doctorates and was scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate from ETH Z?rich on November 17, 2007; however he succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia on the morning of November 16th at the Stanford Hospital. He was a visiting Professor at Princeton (1970), MIT (1979), ETH (1974 & 2002), and Oxford (1982 & 1998). He served as the President of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) from 1985 to 1987 and was founding editor of both the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing (SISC) and the SIAM Journal on Matrix Analysis and Applications (SIMAX). The bulk of his research work was collaborative. He had at least 181 distinct co-authors and the number may still increase as co-authored papers keep appearing posthumously. Of all his achievements, though, he was most proud of his 30 Ph.D. students and their accomplishments.
  • Date of Birth:

    1932 February 29
  • Date of Death:

    2007 November 16
  • Noted For:

    Co-publisher of an algorithm in 1970 that made the computation of the singular value decomposition (SVD) feasible and that is still used today
  • Category of Achievement:

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