Leonard Adleman

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Leonard Adleman
Born (1945-12-31) December 31, 1945 (age 69)
California, United States
Education Computer Science
Molecular Biology
Alma mater University of California Berkeley
Employer University of Southern California
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known for RSA
DNA computing
Children Jennifer Adleman (b. 1980), Stephanie Adleman (b. 1984), and Lindsey Adleman Mussack (b. 1987)
Awards Paris Kanellakis Award (1996)
ACM Turing Award (2002)

Leonard Max Adleman (born December 31, 1945) is an American theoretical computer scientist and professor of computer science and molecular biology at the University of Southern California. He is known for being a co-inventor of the RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) cryptosystem in 1977, and of DNA computing. RSA is in widespread use in security applications, including https.


Adleman was born in California. He grew up in San Francisco and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his BA degree in mathematics in 1968 and his Ph.D. degree in EECS in 1976. In 1994, his paper Molecular Computation of Solutions To Combinatorial Problems described the experimental use of DNA as a computational system. In it, he solved a seven-node instance of the Hamiltonian Graph problem, an NP-complete problem similar to the travelling salesman problem. While the solution to a seven-node instance is trivial, this paper is the first known instance of the successful use of DNA to compute an algorithm. DNA computing has been shown to have potential as a means to solve several other large-scale combinatorial search problems.

In 2002, he and his research group managed to solve a 'nontrivial' problem using DNA computation. Specifically, they solved a 20-variable SAT problem having more than 1 million potential solutions. They did it in a manner similar to the one Adleman used in his seminal 1994 paper. First, a mixture of DNA strands logically representative of the problem's solution space was synthesized. This mixture was then operated upon algorithmically using biochemical techniques to winnow out the 'incorrect' strands, leaving behind only those strands that 'satisfied' the problem. Analysis of the nucleotide sequence of these remaining strands revealed 'correct' solutions to the original problem.

For his contribution to the invention of the RSA cryptosystem, Adleman, along with Ron Rivest and Adi Shamir, has been a recipient of the 1996 Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award and the 2002 ACM Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of Computer Science. Adleman was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.[1]

He is one of the original discoverers of the Adleman–Pomerance–Rumely primality test.

Fred Cohen, in his 1984 paper, Experiments with Computer Viruses has credited Adleman with coining the term "virus".[2]

He was also the mathematical consultant on the movie Sneakers.

Adleman is also an amateur boxer and has sparred with James Toney.[3]

He is also widely referred to as the Father of DNA Computing.[4][5] He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

Currently, Adleman is working on the mathematical theory of Strata.[6]

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