Stephen Wolfram

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Stephen Wolfram (2008)

Stephen Wolfram (born August 29, 1959 in London ) is a British physicist , computer scientist and mathematician , who is known for the conception of the software Mathematica and his research on cellular automata .


Stephen Wolfram's Jewish parents fled Westphalia to England in 1933 . His father Hugo was a writer, his mother Sybil was a professor of philosophy at Oxford. His younger brother is Conrad Wolfram .

Wolfram is sometimes referred to as a child prodigy . In 1975, when he was 15, he published an article on particle physics as a student at Eton College . A year later he began studying physics at St John's College of Oxford University and put it in 1978 at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) continued. He initially dealt with the connections between cosmology and elementary particle physics, later he worked in the field of the theory of strong interaction . In 1979 he received his PhD from Caltech.

From 1979 to 1981 he headed the development of the computer algebra system SMP ( Symbolic Manipulation Program , a previous version of Mathematica ) in the physics department of Caltech. He left university because of an intellectual property dispute related to SMP.

In 1983 he accepted a position at the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study . There he worked on cellular automata, which he applied to numerous other areas ( cryptography and hydrodynamics ). In 1986 he moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and began developing the mathematics software Mathematica, which appeared in June 1988. In 1987 he founded Wolfram Research based in Champaign, IL, which has been marketing and developing the software since then. Wolfram is the company's managing director and main shareholder. The programming language used in Mathematica was also sold independently of Mathematica as Wolfram Language .

Wolfram is co-founder and editor of the journal Complex Systems, which has been published since 1987, the first scientific journal in this research field. It includes relevant contributions to complex systems from mathematics, physics, computer science and biology.

In April 2013 he published a data analysis from users of the social network Facebook . Using software developed in-house, Wolfram analyzes the relationships and topics of conversation between those involved and also presents the results graphically.

Stephen Wolfram is married to a mathematician with whom he has four children. The family lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

A New Kind of Science

2002 he published a book A New Kind of Science ( A novel science ) that in his work and research on complex systems built with numerous visual examples of the cardinality of cellular automata over more traditional mathematical models in describing the nature tries to show. Wolfram's main message is that the universe has a digital nature and obeys the fundamental laws as simple programs ( simple programs can be written). He prophesies that this knowledge, if accepted by the scientific community, will have a great and revolutionary impact on physics, chemistry and biology and most scientific fields. This is where the title of his book comes from.

Since the book was published, Wolfram has been committed to bringing the key messages of A New Kind of Science to a wider audience through lectures, holding conferences and thematically relevant summer courses for schoolchildren and students. In April 2020 he announced that after almost 50 years of research he might have found a way to a fundamental theory of physics.

Wolfram Research, Inc.

Stephen Wolfram is the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois. Wolfram Research's flagship product is Mathematica , an integrated development environment for the calculation, simulation, analysis and documentation of technical problems. In addition to corporate management, Wolfram is intensively involved in the development of new technologies and functional product design within the company.

Wolfram Language

In June 2014, Wolfram introduced the Wolfram Language as a general multi-paradigm programming language. The associated documentation was published in October 2013, at the same time that Mathematica and Wolfram Language were bundled on the Raspberry Pi single-board computer . Although Wolfram Language has over 25 years of development and was the main programming language in Mathematica , it wasn't officially called that until 2014. Wolfram's son, Christopher Wolfram, gave a live coding demonstration with the Wolfram Language at SXSW and blogs about the Wolfram Language for Wolfram Research.

On December 8, 2015, Stephen Wolfram's book “An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language” was published in the USA, an introduction to the Wolfram Language and its own kind of calculation-oriented thinking, especially for people without programming knowledge.

Wolfram Alpha

In March 2009, he announced the innovative Wolfram Alpha search engine on his blog , a computational knowledge machine that is supposed to be able to calculate answers to questions for the first time instead of how B. Google to fall back on a pure database . The announcement generated considerable media coverage; Wolfram Alpha was reported in several hundred newspapers and magazines around the world. The search engine has been freely available since May 16, 2009. Wolfram Alpha is also in Bing from Microsoft and Siri from Apple used.

Wolfram Physics Project

In April 2020, Wolfram announced the Wolfram Physics Project, a crowdsource research project to combine relativity, gravity, and quantum mechanics into a fundamental theory. Wolfram claims to be able to reduce and explain all laws of physics to a hypergraph. This approach builds on the ideas he describes in his book A New Kind of Science .

The basic idea is to explore the emerging complexity abstract reduction systems (in tungsten MathWorld as "substitution System" ( substitution system ) hereinafter), wherein the studied systems are mainly due to a minimalist extreme. Many of the computational phenomena obtained in these systems have analogies to Wolfram's earlier investigations on cellular automata . Wolfram claims that special relativity, general relativity and the central results of quantum mechanics can be reproduced from an extremely simple model. From a few points in space and a rule that generates additional points, a model can be developed that depicts the real universe - as a hypergraph . The rule you choose determines how the graph evolves in the next iteration, and so executing simple rules can lead to complex behavior. Wolfram would like to find exactly this rule of origin, in order to establish the Theory of Everything , in this community research project.

Wolfram's research project received little attention in German-speaking countries immediately after its publication in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic .

Audiovisual work

Together with his son Christopher, he worked as a scientific advisor for the film Arrival and was awarded the Kip Thorne Gravity Award for Best Depiction of a Scientific Principle (Linguistics) and the Wolfram Award Best Technical Advisor (for the Stephen Wolfram as the first winner in this category to be named).

In 2017, Wolfram decided to stream the in-house meetings of the Wolfram Language development team live on the Internet. At these meetings, participants can make suggestions and suggest functions and names for new functions, and they can get involved in solving complex problems. Meetings will be streamed live on YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Twitch.TV and then archived on Stephen Wolfram's website.

Since 2018 Wolfram has also been running a podcast in which he discusses a wide variety of topics from the history of science to the future of artificial intelligence.


In 1981 he became a MacArthur Fellow . In 2009 he received the Friedrich L. Bauer Prize from the Technical University of Munich . He has been a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society since 2012 . In 2013 he received the Caltech 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award . For his research work on the film Arrival , he received the Kip Thorne Gravity Award for Best Depiction of a Scientific Principle and the Wolfram Award Best Technical Advisor .


  • Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People. Wolfram Media Inc., Champaign Ill 2016. ISBN 1-57955-003-7 .
  • An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language. Wolfram Media Inc., Champaign Ill 2015. ISBN 1-944183-00-0 .
  • A New Kind of Science . Wolfram Media Inc., Champaign Ill 2002. ISBN 1-57955-008-8 .
  • Two-dimensional cellular automata. in: Journal of Statistical Physics. Dordrecht 38.1985, No. 5-6, 901-946. ISSN  0022-4715
  • Theory and Applications of Cellular Automata (including Selected Papers 1983-1986). World Scientific Publishing 1986. ISBN 9971501236
  • Mathematica. A System for Doing Mathematics by Computer . Addison-Wesley, Reading Mass 1991. ISBN 0-201-51502-4 .

Web links

Commons : Stephen Wolfram  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kolata, Gina. "Caltech Torn by Dispute Over Software", Science , May 27, 1983 (Vol. 220, No. 4600) issue, pgs. 932-934.
  2. ^ Complex Systems Website of Complex Systems. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  3. Stephen Wolfram Blog: Data Science of the Facebook World . Stephen Wolfram's website. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  4. Stephen Wolfram on the evaluation of Facebook data - SPIEGEL ONLINE . Spiegel Online website. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  5. Stephen Wolfram Blog: About Stephen Wolfram . Stephen Wolfram's website. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  6. Stephen Wolfram: 'The textbook has never interested me' In: "The Guardian Online" of June 29, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  7. ^ TED (2010) Stephen Wolfram: Scientist, inventor. [Online] (accessed on February 18, 2016)
  8. ^ Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics ... and It's Beautiful. April 14, 2020.
  9. ^ David Auerbach: Stephen Wolfram claims he can make the world computable. Is he on to something? In: "Slate" from March 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Stephen Wolfram: I Wrote a Book — To Teach the Wolfram Language . Stephen Wolfram's website. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  11. Stephen Wolfram's blog entry on Wolfram Alpha from March 5, 2009. Wolfram Alpha website
  12. heise online: Wolfram presents its knowledge machine - Google holds against it
  13. Example:
    Saul Hansell: Better Search Doesn't Mean Beating Google . In: "New York Times" of March 9, 2009.
    Christian Stöcker: Software genius promises the Google killer . In: "Spiegel-Online" from March 10, 2009.
    Ted Dziuba: Mathematica man brews 'AI' Google Killer ™ - A New Kind of Pseudo-Science . In: “The Register” of March 17, 2009.
  14. Wolfram Alpha website
  15. Kristin Meldahl and Natalia Burina: Answering your questions with Bing and Wolfram Alpha . In: Microsoft's Bing Blog, August 10, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  16. Marcel Magis: Bing and Wolfram Alpha cooperate . In: of November 12, 2009. Retrieved on February 18, 2016.
  17. Harald Weiss: Wolfram Alpha: The knowledge database behind Siri . In: of April 16, 2012. Retrieved on February 18, 2016.
  18. Stephen Wolfram: Stephen Wolfram Blog: How We Got Here: The Backstory of the Wolfram Physics Project . Stephen Wolfram's website. Retrieved May 14, 2020.
  19. Michael Herold: Physicist wants to decipher the universe - and streams it live on Twitch . In: of April 16, 2020. Accessed on May 14, 2020.
  20. Silke Hahn: developer of the Wolfram language invites you to solve physics puzzles in the crowd . In: heise online from April 15, 2020. Accessed on May 14, 2020.
  21. How Arrival's designers crafted a mesmerizing alien alphabet . Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  22. Raw Science Film Festival Awards Ceremony ( Memento of the original from December 10, 2016 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. . Retrieved December 15, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. ^ What do I do all day. Livestreamed technology CEOing . In: "" of December 11, 2017. Accessed on March 12, 2019.
  24. MacArthur Foundation on Fellowship for Wolfram 1981
  25. Stephen Wolfram Receives Caltech 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award . Retrieved March 12, 2019