Richard W. Hamming

Richard W. Hamming
Richard W. Hamming


Richard W. Hamming was born on February 11, 1915 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1937 he graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.S. in Mathematics and received a M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Nebraska in 1939. Dr. Hamming was granted a PhD in Mathematics in 1942 from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Hamming was a mathematics instructor at the University of Illinois from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville and served in that capacity until 1946 at which time he joined Bell Laboratories as a Member of Technical Staff. Dr. Hamming retired from Bell Laboratories in 1976 after having attained his final position as Head of the Computing Science Research Department. During his career at Bell Laboratories, Dr. Hamming also taught many courses at City College of New York, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Princeton University. At present he is an Adjunct Professor at the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

Richard Hamming was one of the first "users" of early electronic computers, His patch board wiring for the IBM CPC became widely used by the computing community. His 1956 work on the IBM 650 led to the development of Bell 2, one of two mathematical programming languages which were the precursors of modern high-level languages. Bell 2 was widely used both within Bell Labs and outside Bell Labs by the IBM 650 community. It first demonstrated many of the format conversions for numbers, overflow and fault conventions that are used in today's high-level languages.

In 1951 he invented and patented error detecting and error correcting codes, This work started a branch of information theory. Hamming codes are used in many modern computers.

In numerical analysis he produced many new techniques. The Hamming window for smoothing data prior to fourier analysis is still widely used today. His work on integrating differential equations is extensive. He is one of the early proponents of fourier methods in numerical analysis as represented in the book Studies in Numerial Analysis.

He has been an effective spokesman representing the user community in computing, particulary toward getting better human-machine interfaces through better languages, operating systems and programming practices.

Dr. Hamming is the recipient of the ACM Turing Prize (1968). He was elected an IEEE Fellow in 1968 and is a member of the American Mathematical Society and Mathematics Association. From 1956 to 1960 Dr. Hamming served as President of the Association, He was also Vice-President of the Mathematics Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Hammings lived in Montery, California when they were not travelling to far parts of the world.

Richard W. Hamming received his namesake medal in 1988 "for exceptional and pioneering contributions to information sciences and systems, and for inspiring generations of researchers in these fields." He had a central role in the development of computer and computing science, and contributed significantly to the area of information science, which includes his error-correcting codes.