Solomon W. Golomb
National Medal of Science
Mathematics And Computer Science
For pioneering work in shift register sequences that changed the course of communications from analog to digital, and for numerous innovations in reliable and secure space, radar, cellular, wireless, and spread-spectrum communications.
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BirthMay 30, 1932
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsPionnered Communications Shift from Analog To Digital
Awarded byBarack Obama
EducationJohns Hopkins University
Areas of ImpactCommunication & Information
AffiliationsUniversity of Southern California
A group of identical blocks – joined edge to edge as though they’ve been plucked from a Rubik’s cube – forms a geometric configuration called a “polyomino.” The term, coined by Jewish American mathematician Solomon Golomb in 1953, served as inspiration for Tetris, one of the world’s first mainstream video games.
While less ingrained in popular culture, his other discoveries during his time at University of Southern California helped usher in the age of digital communications. The notion of cyber security is rooted in Golomb’s experiments using cryptography and “nonlinear shift registers” – sets of ones and zeroes in which the order of numbers shifts with each repetition – to send and secure messages.
The concept is still used today in cell phones, GPS systems and the websites we browse. “Forty years ago, I don’t know anyone who anticipated the Internet,” he said in 2015, “and yet now we can’t imagine a world without it.”