S. M. Ulam

Born April 13, 1909, Lwów, Poland; died May 13, 1984, Santa Fe, N.M.; colleague of John von Neumann and collaborator in the development of innovative programs for early computers and the solution of problems related to atomic energy.

Education: MA and DSc, mathematics, Polytechnic Institute, Lwów, 1933; subsequent postdoctoral studies in Vienna, Zurich, and Cambridge.

Professional Experience: Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, 1935; junior fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows, lecturer, mathematics, Harvard University, 1936-1940; assistant professor, University of Wisconsin, 1941-1943; Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory: staff member, 1944-1967, consultant, 1967-1984; professor and chairman, Department of Mathematics, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1965-1977; visiting professor, MIT, 1972; visiting professor, University of Paris, 1972; graduate research professor, University of Florida, Gainesville, 1974-1984; professor, biomathematics, University of Colorado Medical School, Denver, 1979-1984; visiting professor, University of California, Davis, 1982.

Honors and Awards: member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; member, National Academy of Sciences; DSc (Hon.), University of New Mexico, 1965; DSc (Hon.), University of Wisconsin, 1978; DSc (Hon.), University of Pittsburgh, 1978; Polish Millenium Award, Jurzykowski Foundation; Polish Heritage Award.

Goldstine (1974, p. 295) has attributed the concept of the Monte Carlo method to Ulam: "One of the most important projects [at IAS] was the development of the now well-known Monte Carlo Method, which was apparently first suggested by Ulam to von Neumann."


Regarding his arrival at Los Alamos in 1943: "When I arrived ... the blackboard was filled with very complicated equations.... This sight scared me out of my wits; looking at these I felt that I should never be able to contribute even an epsilon to the solution of any of them." (Ulam 1980)



Goldstein, Herman H., The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ., 1972, p. 295.

Ulam, S.M., Adventures of a Mathematician, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1976.

Ulam, S.M., "Von Neumann: The Interaction of Mathematics and Computing," in Metropolis, N., J. Howlett, and Gian-Carlo Rota, A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century, Academic Press, New York, 1980, pp. 93-99.

Significant Contributions

Bednarek, A.R., and Francoise Ulam, eds., Analogies between Analogies: The Mathematical Reports of S.M. Ulam and His Los Alamos Collaborators, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1990.


Portrait added (MRW, 2013)

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