Leonard Adleman

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Leonard Adleman

Leonard Max Adleman (born December 31, 1945 in San Francisco , California ) is an American professor of computer science and molecular biology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles . For the development of RSA - algorithm , he received the 2002 Turing Award , one of the highest honors in the field of computer science.


Adleman grew up in San Francisco. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley , where he received his bachelor's degree in 1968 . He then started working as a programmer at Bank of America and vacillated between further studies in physics or medicine. An article on Gödel's theorem by Martin Gardner made him switch to computer science. In 1976 he received his doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science ( Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences , EECS) at Manuel Blum ( Number Theoretic Aspects of Computational complexities ). He was then an instructor from 1976, assistant professor from 1977 and associate professor for mathematics from 1979 at MIT , where he met Ronald L. Rivest and Adi Shamir , with whom he developed the RSA algorithm. They sold RSA Data Security Inc., founded in 1983 and of which Adleman was president, for $ 200 million in 1996. In 1980 he went to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles as Associate Professor, where he has been Professor since 1983, and Henri Salvatori Professor since 1985 .

Together with Carl Pomerance and Robert Rumely , he also developed the Adleman-Pomerance-Rumely Primality Test (APR, also APRCL, as improved by Henri Cohen and Hendrik Lenstra ).

With Roger Heath-Brown he proved that there are infinitely many prime exponents to which the Fermat conjecture is true.

Like Adi Shamir for the original backpack problem , he found methods in the early 1980s to break improved Merkle-Hellman cryptosystems .

Before Manindra Agrawal proved that a polynomial deterministic algorithm for primality tests exists, he proved with M.-DA Huang that a random algorithm exists in polynomial time. Previously in 1977 Robert M. Solovay and Volker Strassen had already shown the existence of a polynomial temporal random algorithm for the test for primality in composite numbers.

Adleman also dealt with computer viruses (the inventor of computer viruses, Fred Cohen , did his doctorate on it in 1986, with first publications on it in 1984) and also with "biological" immunology. Together with David Wofsy, he studied the decline in T cells in AIDS and traced them back to a homeostatic mechanism. Initially, however, the immunologists paid little attention to their work. But it sparked his interest in molecular biology, which he also studied practically at the University of California, San Francisco . He noticed an analogy between DNA polymerase and Turing machines , which inspired him to conduct his own experiments. In 1994, in his publication Molecular Computation of Solutions To Combinatorial Problems, he presented the experimental use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) as a computer system, which made him the founder of DNA computing . In the article he solved a Hamilton circle problem in a graph with seven nodes with the help of DNA and thus described the first successful attempt to use a biocomputer . In 2002 Adleman succeeded in solving a much more complex problem with the DNA computer. It was a 3-SAT problem, a special satisfiability problem in propositional logic , with 20 variables and more than a million potential results.

In 1992 Adleman was also a mathematical advisor for the film Sneakers - The Silent .

He has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1996 . For the invention of the RSA method, together with Rivest and Shamir, he received the Turing Award (2002) in 2000, the IEEE Kobayashi Award, and in 1996 the ACM Paris-Kanellakis Award with these and Whitfield Diffie , Martin Hellman , Ralph Merkle . In 2006 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences , and in 2018 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame .

Adleman is married and has three children.


  • With Kevin S. McCurley: Open problems in number theoretic complexity. In: David S. Johnson et al. (Ed.): Discrete Algorithms and Complexity. Academic Press 1986, pp. 237-262
  • With Kevin S. McCurley: Open problems in number theoretic complexity, II. ANTS-I (Lecture Notes Computer Science 877), Springer-Verlag 1994, pp. 291-322

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Rivest, Shamir, Adleman: A Method for Obtaining Digital Signatures and Public-Key Cryptosystems . Communications of the ACM, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1978, pp. 120-126
  2. ^ Adleman, Rumely, Pomerance: On distinguishing prime numbers from composite numbers . Annals of Mathematics, Vol. 117, 1983, pp. 173-206. According to Adleman ( Adleman Papers ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ) This is the first work on computer science, published in the prestigious leading US mathematics journal Annals of Mathematics. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.usc.edu
  3. ^ Adleman, Heath-Brown: The first case of Fermat's last theorem . Inventiones Mathematicae, Vol. 79, 1985, pp. 409-416
  4. Adleman, Huang: Primality testing and two dimensional abelian varieties over finite fields . Springer, Lecture Notes in Mathematics Vol. 1512, 1992.
  5. Solovay, Strassen: A fast Monte-Carlo Test for Primality . SIAM Journal of Computing, Vol. 6, 1977, pp. 84-85
  6. ^ Adleman: An Abstract Theory of Computer Viruses . Advances in Cryptography - Crypto `88, Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 1988, pp. 354-374. Contribution to LJ Hoffman (editor): Rogue Programs , Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1990
  7. Science, Vol. 26, 1994, pp. 1021-1024
  8. Richard Lipton had already solved a SAT problem in 1995 with a DNA calculator
  9. Adleman as a mathematical advisor in the film Sneakers - Die Lautlosen ( Memento of the original from November 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.usc.edu