John Gustafson (scientist)

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For the musician, see John Gustafson (musician).
John Gustafson, circa 2005.

John L. Gustafson (born January 19, 1955) is an American computer scientist and businessman, chiefly known for his work in High Performance Computing (HPC) such as the invention of Gustafson's law, introducing the first commercial computer cluster[citation needed], measuring with QUIPS, leading the reconstruction of the Atanasoff–Berry computer, inventing the Unum number format and computation system,[1][2] and several awards for computer speedup. Currently he is the Chief Technology Officer at Ceranovo, Inc. pushing the limits of ceramic capacitors.[3] He was the Chief Graphics Product Architect and Senior Fellow at AMD from September 2012 until June 2013, and he previously held the distinguished positions of Director of Intel Labs-SC,[4] CEO of Massively Parallel Technologies, Inc.[5] and CTO at ClearSpeed Technology.[6] Dr. Gustafson holds applied mathematics degrees from the California Institute of Technology and Iowa State University.

Childhood and education[edit]

Gustafson was raised in Des Moines, Iowa. After completing a degree in Applied Mathematics at California Institute of Technology in 1977 he moved to Ames, Iowa and completed his M.S. (1981) and Ph.D. (1982) at Iowa State University.

His mother was an electronics technician at Collins Radio and his father was a chemical engineer turned MD, both as a result of World War II. His parents encouraged his scientific explorations at a young age. Assembling radio transmitters, designing and executing chemistry experiments, and making holograms are some of his favorite childhood explorations adding up to over 1000 lab hours before college.[7]


  • 2007 IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Award
  • 2006 International Atanasoff Award (inaugural)
  • 2000 Iowa State University Inventor of the Year Award
  • 1998 Distinguished Visiting Professor, New Mexico State University
  • 1997 PDPTA Outstanding Achievement Award
  • 1995 R&D 100 Award
  • 1991 R&D 100 Award
  • 1990 New Mexico Inventor of the Year Award
  • 1989 R&D 100 Award
  • 1988 Parallel computing breakthrough read into U.S. Congressional Record
  • 1988 Gordon Bell Prize (inaugural) (Greatest annual contribution to the science of parallel processing)
  • 1988 Karp Challenge (Unique award: First demonstration of parallel speedup of over 200 times)
  • 1977 Richter Fellowship
  • 1977 Graduation with Honors, Election to Gnome Club (Caltech honor society)
  • 1974 Eric Temple Bell Award (Caltech; for "Outstanding Original Research in Mathematics")
  • 1973 Drake Physics Prize


Gustafson devised a new format for storing real numbers a series of binary bits in computers. Normal formats store numbers as a fixed number of bits, for example 64 bits is usual for Double-precision floating-point format numbers. Unums on the other hand use a variable number of bits depending on the number of digits required. This can allow them to be smaller than doubles for fast processing and also more precise or larger than the limits for double when desirable. [8]


  1. ^ Chris Manion (12 February 2015). "New CRC Press Book Poised to Revolutionize Computational Mathematics". PRWeb. 
  2. ^ Gustafson, John L. (2015). The End of Error. Chapman & Hall/CRC Computational Science 24. CRC Press. ISBN 9781482239874. 
  3. ^ Lewey Anton (20 January 2014). "John Gustafson Moves to Ceranovo as CTO". insideHPC. Retrieved 2015-06-27. 
  4. ^ Anand Lal Shimpi (28 August 2012). "AMD Hires Ex-Intel Labs Architect, John Gustafson, As Chief Graphics Product Architecture". AnandTech. 
  5. ^ Abbie Kendall (15 May 2008). "Massively Parallel Names HPC Industry Leader John Gustafson CEO". BusinessWire. 
  6. ^ Paul Owen (6 September 2005). "Dr. John Gustafson Accepts Position with ClearSpeed Technology; HPC Industry Pioneer Joins the Company as CTO, HPC". BusinessWire. 
  7. ^ Caroline Connor (20 October 2010). "Movers and Shakers in HPC: John Gustafson". HPCWire. Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. 
  8. ^ "Unum Computing: An Energy Efficient and Massively Parallel Approach to Valid Numerics". 

External links[edit]