April 14, 2003 —
Len Adleman Wins Turing Prize, Computer Science's Nobel Equivalent
USC School of Engineering Professor Honored for Collaboration on RSA Algorithm
Los Angeles: Leonard M. Adleman
, Henry Salvatori Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Molecular Biology
at the University of Southern California is a co-winner of the Association for
Computing Machinery (ACM)'s 2002 A. M. Turing Prize, for his contributions to
public key cryptography.
At MIT in 1977, Adleman worked with Drs. Ronald L. Rivest and Adi Shamir to develop
the RSA code, which has become the foundation of an entire generation of technology
security products. It has also inspired important work in both theoretical computer
science and mathematics. RSA is an algorithm - named for Drs. Rivest, Shamir and
Adleman - that uses number theory to provide a pragmatic approach to secure transactions.
It is today's most widely used encryption method, with applications in Internet
browsers and servers, electronic transactions in the credit card industry, and
products providing e-mail services.
The A.M.Turing Award, named after computer pioneer Alan Turing, is considered
the most prestigious in computer science. It carries a $100,000 prize, with funding
provided by Intel Corporation.
The RSA scheme provides secure communications over distances between parties
that have not previously met, reversing historical conventions that required the
parties to exchange secret keys prior to communication. Because the new key exchange
algorithm eliminated this inconvenient and often insecure step, it provided the
ideal mechanism for private communications over electronic networks. The RSA code
forms the basis for most security products now in use on the Internet for financial
and other private communications.
RSA gained widespread attention when it was published in a detailed paper in
Communications of the ACM in February 1978. Drs. Rivest, Shamir and Adleman shared the 1996 ACM Paris
Kanallakis Award for Theory and Practice, together with Professors Whitfield Diffie,
Martin Hellman and Ralph Merkle, who pioneered the concept of public-key cryptography.
The Kanellakis Award honors specific theoretical accomplishments that have had
a significant and demonstrable effect on the practice of computing. The Turing
Award honors contributions of lasting and major technical importance to the computer
field, and is ACM's most prestigious technical award.
Dr. Robert E. Kahn, chairman, president and CEO of CNRI (Corporation for National
Research Initiatives), headed the 2002 Turing Award committee. He said the committee
rapidly converged on the choice of Drs. Rivest, Shamir and Adleman to be this
year's honorees. "We had a large number of highly qualified candidates, but what
impressed us was the combination of their theoretical contribution and its widespread
practical application. They clearly deserved this recognition for their well-known
seminal work in advancing the theory and application of public key cryptography,"
Leonard M. Adleman earned a BS in Mathematics at the University of California,
Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science, also at Berkeley. He has recently extended
his professional interests to the biotechnology field. While reading a text on
DNA a few years ago, he was struck by a resemblance between the way a protein,
known as polymerase, produces complementary strands of DNA, and the principle
behind the Turing machine, a computational model proposed in the 1930's by Alan
M. Turing, for whom ACM's Turing Award is named. Like polymerase, which runs along
a strand of DNA reading chemical information, the Turing machine runs along a
tape reading digital information. Dr. Adleman concluded that DNA formation operates
like a computer, and in a seminal paper published Nov. 11, 1994 in Science, demonstrated that DNA could actually be used as a computing medium to solve
a simple problem. On March 14, 2002, another publication in Science announced use of DNA to solve a much more difficult one.
Dr. Adleman is also associated with the creation of one of the first computer
viruses, demonstrated November 11, 1983 by Adleman's student, Frederick B. Cohen,
as a class assignment.
Intel’s support has enabled ACM to increase the cash award this year from $25,000
to $100,000. It also brings greater recognition to the scientists and engineers
whose innovations have driven the information technology industry forward, and
sets a high standard for the next generation of science and technology pioneers
who will deliver the ideas and inventions that fuel the global economy.
ACM will present the A.M. Turing Award at the annual ACM Awards Banquet on June
7, 2003, at the Town and Country Conference Center in San Diego, CA, in conjunction
with the Federated Computing Research Conference. Since its inception in 1966,
ACM’s Turing Award has honored the computer scientists and engineers who created
the systems and underlying theoretical foundations that have propelled the information
technology industry. For more information, see acm.org/awards
Dr. Adleman's Co-Winners
Dr. Ronald L. Rivest is the Viterbi Professor of Computer Science in MIT's Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science. He is a founder of MIT's Cryptography and Information
Security Group. He received a BA in Mathematics from Yale University and a Ph.D.
in Computer Science from Stanford University.
Dr. Adi Shamir is the Borman Professor in the Applied Math Department of the Weizmann Institute
of Science in Israel. He received a BS in Mathematics from Tel-Aviv University
and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Weizmann Institute.
The Association for Computing Machinery
(ACM) is a major force in advancing the skills of information technology professionals
and students. ACM serves its global membership of 75,000 by delivering cutting
edge technical information and transferring ideas from theory to practice. ACM
hosts the computing industry’s leading Digital Library and Portal to Computing
Literature. With its journals and magazines, special interest groups, conferences,
workshops, electronic forums, Career Resource Centre and Professional Development
Centre, ACM is a primary resource to the information technology field. For more
information, see www.acm.org
Contact: Eric Mankin