Bill Gosper

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Ralph William Gosper, Jr
Bill Gosper 2006.jpg
Born 1943 (age 70–71)
Nationality American
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Occupation Programmer

Ralph William Gosper, Jr. (born 1943), known as Bill Gosper, is an American mathematician and programmer from Pennsauken Township, New Jersey.[1] Along with Richard Greenblatt, he may be considered to have founded the hacker community, and he holds a place of pride in the Lisp community.

Becoming a hacker[edit]

In high school, Gosper was interested in model rockets until one of his friends was injured in a rocketry accident and contracted a fatal brain infection.[2] Gosper enrolled in MIT in 1961, and he received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from MIT in 1965 despite becoming disaffected from the mathematics department because of their anti-computer attitude.[2]

In his second year at MIT, Gosper took a programming course from John McCarthy and became affiliated with the MIT AI Lab. In 1974, he moved to Stanford University, where he worked with Donald Knuth.[2] Eventually he also worked for Xerox PARC, Macsyma and others.

His contributions to computational mathematics include HAKMEM and the MIT Maclisp system. He made major contributions to the Macsyma, Project MAC's computer algebra system. Gosper later worked with Symbolics and Macsyma, Inc. on commercial versions of Macsyma.

Working with Knuth[edit]

In the 1970s, Gosper moved to California for a three-year stint at Stanford, where he lectured and helped Donald Knuth write volume II of The Art of Computer Programming.

Consultancy[edit]

Since that time, he has worked at or consulted for Xerox PARC, Symbolics, Wolfram Research, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and Macsyma Inc.

Key contributions[edit]

Game of life[edit]

He became intensely interested in the Game of Life shortly after John Horton Conway had proposed it. Conway conjectured on the existence of infinitely growing patterns, and offered a reward for an example. Gosper was the first to find such a pattern (specifically, the glider gun), and won the prize. Gosper was also the originator of the hashlife algorithm that can speed up the computation of Life patterns by many orders of magnitude.

Packing problems[edit]

Gosper has created numerous packing problem puzzles, such as "Twubblesome Twelve".[3]

Symbolic computation[edit]

Perhaps his most profound contribution is that he was the first person to realize the possibilities of symbolic computation on a computer as a mathematics research tool, whereas computer methods were previously limited to purely numerical methods. In particular, this research resulted in his work on continued fraction representations of real numbers, and far more famously, developing Gosper's algorithm for finding closed form hypergeometric identities.

Gosper briefly held the world record for computing the most digits of pi with 17 million digits.[4] See chronology of computation of π.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bill Gosper, Vintage Computer Festival. Accessed January 3, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Albers, Donald J.; Alexanderson, Gerald L.; Reid, Constance, eds. (1990), "Bill Gosper", More Mathematical People, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp. 100–117 .
  3. ^ Rucker, Rudy (2012), Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf Von Bitter Rucker, Macmillan, p. 240, ISBN 9780765327536 .
  4. ^ Arndt, Jörg; Haenel, Christoph (2006), Pi Unleashed, Springer-Verlag, pp. 104, 206, ISBN 978-3-540-66572-4  English translation by Catriona and David Lischka. Record was in 1985.

External links[edit]