Ronald Graham

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Ronald Graham
Ronald graham writing.jpg
Ronald Graham in 1998
Born (1935-10-31) October 31, 1935 (age 84)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Known forcombinatorics, information science, graph theory, scheduling theory
Scientific career
Fieldsmathematics, computer science
InstitutionsBell Labs, AT&T Labs
Doctoral advisorDerrick Henry Lehmer

Ronald Lewis Graham (born October 31, 1935)[1] is an American mathematician credited by the American Mathematical Society as being "one of the principal architects of the rapid development worldwide of discrete mathematics in recent years".[2] He has done important work in scheduling theory, computational geometry, Ramsey theory, and quasi-randomness.[3]

He is the Chief Scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (also known as Cal-(IT)2) and the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).


Graham was born in Taft, California. In 1962, he received his Ph.D in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley and began working at Bell Labs and later AT&T Labs.[4] He was director of information sciences in AT&T Labs, but retired from AT&T in 1999 after 37 years.

His 1977 paper considered a problem in Ramsey theory, and gave a large number as an upper bound for its solution. This number has since become well known as the largest number ever used in a mathematical proof (was listed as such in the Guinness Book of Records), and is now known as Graham's number, although it has since then been surpassed by even larger numbers such as TREE(3).

Graham popularized the concept of the Erdős number, named after the highly prolific Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős (1913–1996). A scientist's Erdős number is the minimum number of coauthored publications away from a publication with Erdős. Graham's Erdős number is 1. He co-authored almost 30 papers with Erdős, and was also a good friend. Erdős often stayed with Graham, and allowed him to look after his mathematical papers and even his income. Graham and Erdős visited the young mathematician Jon Folkman when he was hospitalized with brain cancer.[5]

Ronald Graham juggling a four ball fountain (1986)

Between 1993 and 1994 Graham served as the president of the American Mathematical Society. Graham was also featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not for being not only "one of the world's foremost mathematicians", but also "a highly skilled trampolinist and juggler", and past president of the International Jugglers' Association.

Ronald Graham, his wife Fan Chung, and Paul Erdős, Japan 1986

He has published about 320 papers and five books, including Concrete Mathematics with Donald Knuth and Oren Patashnik.[6]

He is married to Fan Chung Graham (known professionally as Fan Chung), who is the Akamai Professor in Internet Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2003, Graham won the American Mathematical Society's annual Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement. The prize was awarded on January 16 that year, at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1999 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. Graham has won many other prizes over the years: he was one of the laureates of the prestigious Pólya Prize the first year it was ever awarded, and among the first to win the Euler Medal. The Mathematical Association of America has also awarded him both the Lester R. Ford prize which was "...established in 1964 to recognize authors of articles of expository excellence published in The American Mathematical Monthly...",[7] and the Carl Allendoerfer prize which was established in 1976 for the same reasons, however for a different magazine, the Mathematics Magazine.[8] In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Ronald Graham", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  2. ^ "2003 Steele Prizes" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. Vol. 50 no. 4. American Mathematical Society. April 2003. pp. 462–467. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  3. ^ Horgan, J. (1997). "Profile: Ronald L. Graham – Juggling Act". Scientific American. Nature Publishing Group. 276 (3): 28–30. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0397-28.
  4. ^ Larry Rabiner (4 Feb 2000). "Ron Graham – A Biographical Retrospective" (PDF).
  5. ^ Hoffman, Paul (1998), The man who loved only numbers: the story of Paul Erdős and the search for mathematical truth, Hyperion, pp. 109–110, ISBN 978-0-7868-6362-4.
  6. ^ Butler, Steve (23 July 2008). "Papers of Ron Graham". UCSD Mathematics. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  7. ^ "The Mathematical Association of America's The Paul R. Halmos-Lester R. Ford Award". Mathematical Association of America. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Allendoerfer Award". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  9. ^ "List of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  10. ^ Reviews of Erdős on Graphs:
  11. ^ Faudree, Ralph (1982). "Review: Ramsey Theory, by Ronald L. Graham, Joel H. Spencer, and Bruce L. Rothschild" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society. 6 (1): 113–116. doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-1982-14982-5. Retrieved 2 July 2014.

External links[edit]