Friday, April 18, 2003

The Turing Award

As noted in a comment to the last post, it is now official that Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman won the 2002 Turing Award.

Unfortunately outside of computer science and particularly outside academics the Turing award is not so well known or respected. In 1987, I was a graduate student visiting my old fraternity at Cornell, Anne Marie Hopcroft came in. Anne Marie was dating one of the fraternity brothers at the time. "My father won the Turing Award! My father won the Turing Award!", she exclaimed. Nobody, besides myself, seemed the least bit interested. She and I tried to explain the importance of the award but to no avail. Had her father won the Nobel prize, you could be sure the reaction would have been different.

The 1997 movie Good Will Hunting gave great publicity for mathematics much by explaining the importance of the Fields Medal to the masses. What can we do to make the Turing Award better known?

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