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.

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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Birth
May 30, 1932
Age Awarded
79
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Pionnered Communications Shift from Analog To Digital
Pentominoes
Awarded by
Barack Obama
Education
Johns Hopkins University
Harvard University
Areas of Impact
Communication & Information
Affiliations
University of Southern California
A

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.”

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