Person: Adleman, Leonard
Leonard Adleman is an American computer scientist best known for being one of the creators of the RSA encryption algorithm.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- As a young boy growing up in San Francisco, Adleman had little ambition, far less of becoming a mathematician.
- It was at the suggestion of this teacher who had opened his eyes "to the fact that one could see things more deeply than the purely superficial" that Adleman enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley.
- Adleman eventually returned to Berkeley for pursuing a PhD in computer science.
- Adleman decided to join graduate school and come away with an understanding of Gödel's theorem at a level beyond the superficial.
- In 1976, Adleman completed his thesis "Number Theoretic Aspects of Computational Complexities", received his PhD, and immediately secured a job as an assistant professor of mathematics at MIT.
- One of Adleman's colleagues at MIT was Ronald Rivest who had his office next door.
- Adleman however was less than excited -- he thought the idea was quite impractical and unworthy of pursuing.
- Soon however, Rivest and Shamir were inventing coding systems and Adleman agreed to test each of the systems by trying to break it.
- The duo came up with 42 different coding systems and each time Adleman was able to break it.
- On the 43rd attempt, based on a difficult factoring problem, Adleman confessed that the code was really unbreakable because of the mathematics involved and could presumably take centuries of computation to factor.
- Rivest stayed up all night, preparing the manuscript describing the code before he handed it to Adleman.
- He had listed the paper's authors in alphabetical order - Adleman, Rivest, Shamir.
- Adleman was made president, Rivest chairman of the board and Shamir the treasurer.
- In that same year, Adleman, along with R S Rumely and C Pomerance, published a paper describing a 'nearly polynomial time' deterministic algorithm for the problem of distinguishing prime numbers from composite ones.
- Adleman, who was Cohen's supervisor, was immediately convinced that the idea would work the moment he learned about it.
- A key turning point in Adleman's life came during the early 90's when he directed his enthusiasm towards the field of immunology.
- Adleman was soon preoccupied with the study of white blood cells called T lymphocytes whose steady decline in AIDS patients leave them vulnerable to lethal infections.
- Adleman and others suggested that the problem lay in the homeostatic mechanism which monitors the levels of T cells - it does not distinguish between CD4 and CD8 cells.
- Unfortunately, the AIDS research community's responses to Adleman's ideas were less than encouraging.
- Undeterred, Adleman decided to acquire a deeper understanding of the biology of HIV in order to be a more persuasive advocate.
- He entered the molecular biology lab at USC and began to learn the methods of modern biology under the guidance of Nickolas Chelyapov (now chief scientist in Adleman's own laboratory).
- It was a period of intense learning for Adleman whose own earlier views on biology was undergoing a significant transformation.
- Indeed, Adleman was thinking about the "Turing machine".
- Adleman wanted his DNA computer to perform something at least as interesting as playing chess.
- Adleman knew he had enough to build a universal computer.
- Adleman decided upon the Hamiltonian Path Problem.
- It was precisely this algorithm which Adleman used in his first DNA computation.
- Adleman first assigned a random DNA sequence to each vertex and edge in the graph (the sequences are known as oligonucleotides).
- Adleman had to then perform a rather tedious experiment by which he had to weed out about a 100 trillion molecules that encoded non-Hamiltonian paths.
- In the end, it took Adleman seven days in the molecular biology lab to perform the world's first DNA computation.
- One of the most exciting fields in contemporary scientific research, molecular computation has witnessed some remarkable breakthroughs in the years following Adleman's experiment.
Born 31 December 1945, San Francisco, California, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive