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Richard W. Hamming was born February 11, 1915, in Chicago, Illinois. His formal education was marked by the following degrees (all in mathematics): B.S. 1937, University of Chicago; M.A. 1939, University of Nebraska; and Ph.D. 1942, University of Illinois. His early experience was obtained at Los Alamos 1945-1946, i.e. at the close of World War II, where he managed the computers used in building the first atomic bomb. From there he went directly to Bell Laboratories where he spent thirty years in various aspects of computing, numerical analysis, and management of computing, i.e. 1946-1976. On July 23, 1976 he `moved his office' to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California where he taught, supervised research, and wrote books.

While at Bell Laboratories, he took time to teach in Universities, sometimes locally and sometimes on a full sabbatical leave; these activities included visiting professorships at New York University, Princeton University (Statistics), City College of New York, Stanford University, 1960-61, Stevens Institute of Technology (Mathematics), and the University of California, Irvine, 1970-71.

Richard Hamming has received a number of awards which include: Fellow, IEEE, 1968; the ACM Turing Prize, 1968; the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award, 1979; Member, National Academy of Engineering, 1980; and the Harold Pender Award, U. Penn., 1981. In 1987 a major IEEE award was named after him, namely the Richard W. Hamming Medal, "For exceptional contributions to information sciences and systems''; fittingly, he was also the first recipient of this award, 1988. In 1996 in Munich he received the prestigious $130,000 Eduard Rhein Award for Achievement in Technology for his work on error correcting codes. He was both a Founder and Past President of ACM, and a Vice Pres. of the AAAS Mathematics Section.

He is probably best known for his pioneering work on error-correcting codes, his work on integrating differential equations, and the spectral window which bears his name. His extensive writing has included a number of important, pioneering, and highly regarded books. These are:


  • Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers, McGraw-Hill, 1962; Second edition 1973; Reprinted by Dover 1985; Translated into Russian.
  • 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; translated into several European languages.
  • Coding and Information Theory, Prentice-Hall, 1980; Second edition 1986.
  • Methods of Mathematics Applied to Calculus, Probability and Statistics, Prentice-Hall, 1985.
  • The Art of Probability for Scientists and Engineers, Addison-Wesley, 1991.
  • The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn, Gordon and Breach, 1997.

He continued a very active life as Adjunct Professor, teaching and writing in the Mathematics and Computer Science Departments at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California for another twenty-one years before he retired to become Professor Emeritus in 1997. He was still teaching a course in the fall of 1997. He passed away unexpectedly on January 7, 1998.


I would like to acknowledge the professional efforts of Donna Paradise of the Word Processing Center who did the initial transcription of the talk from the tape recording. She made my job of editing much easier. The errors of sentence parsing and punctuation are mine and mine alone. Finally I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Richard Hamming and Alan Chynoweth for all of their help in bringing this transcription to its present readable state.

J. F. Kaiser



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