Richard Hamming

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Richard Hamming


Richard Hamming

Professor Richard Wesley Hamming (1915-02-11 - 1998-01-07). An American mathematician known for his work in information theory (notably error detection and correction), having invented the concepts of Hamming code, Hamming distance, and Hamming window.

Richard Hamming received his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1937, his M.A. from the University of Nebraska in 1939, and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1942. In 1945 Hamming joined the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.

In 1946, after World War II, Hamming joined the Bell Telephone Laboratories where he worked with both Shannon and John Tukey. He worked there until 1976 when he accepted a chair of computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California.

Hamming's fundamental paper on error-detecting and error-correcting codes ("Hamming codes") appeared in 1950.

His work on the IBM 650 leading to the development in 1956 of the L2 programming language. This never displaced the workhorse language L1 devised by Michael V Wolontis. By 1958 the 650 had been elbowed aside by the 704.

Although best known for error-correcting codes, Hamming was primarily a numerical analyst, working on integrating differential equations and the Hamming spectral window used for smoothing data before Fourier analysis. He wrote textbooks, propounded aphorisms ("the purpose of computing is insight, not numbers"), and was a founder of the ACM and a proponent of open-shop computing ("better to solve the right problem the wrong way than the wrong problem the right way.").

In 1968 he was made a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and awarded the Turing Prize from the Association for Computing Machinery. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers awarded Hamming the Emanuel R Piore Award in 1979 and a medal in 1988.

[Richard Hamming. Coding and Information Theory. Prentice-Hall, 1980. ISBN 0-13-139139-9].