Two Berkeley professors win National Medal of Science

by Robert Sanders

Berkeley -- Two University of California at Berkeley professors are among eight new recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Science announced today (Monday, June 10) by the White House and the National Science Foundation .

Stephen Smale, 65, professor emeritus of mathematics, and Richard M. Karp, 61, University Professor emeritus in the computer science division, will receive the medal later this summer with the other recipients during a ceremony at the White House.

Smale, currently on sabbatical at the University of Hong Kong, was honored for his work in pure and applied mathematics. A holder of the Fields Medal -- considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics -- Smale also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has spanned a broad range of topics, leading to major discoveries in the fields of topology, mathematical economics and the mathematics of computer computation.

Karp, who retired from UC Berkeley two years ago and currently is on the faculty at the University of Washington, Seattle, was honored for work linking theoretical computer science to real-world problems. A winner of the highest award in the field of computer science, the Turing Award, Karp is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. While at UC Berkeley in the 1970s he developed the field of complexity theory, a powerful means of determining the inherent difficulty of solving any problem with computers. The theory of NP-completeness is today the centerpiece of modern theoretical computer science. He has contributed substantially to other areas as well, including parallel computation.


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