Leonard Adleman

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Professor Leonard Adleman
Professor Leonard Adleman

Leonard Adleman (born December 31, 1945) is a theoretical computer scientist and professor of computer science and molecular biology at the University of Southern California. He is known for being the inventor of RSA in 1977, and of DNA computing. RSA is in widespread use in security applications, including digital signatures.

Born in California, Adleman grew up in San Francisco, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Bachelor's degree in 1968 and his Ph.D. in 1976.

In 1994, his paper Molecular Computation of Solutions To Combinatorial Problems described the experimental use of DNA as a computational system. In it, he solved a seven-node instance of the Hamiltonian Graph problem, an NP-Complete problem similar to the traveling salesman problem. While the solution to a seven-node instance is trivial, this paper is the first known instance of the successful use of DNA to compute an algorithm. DNA computing has been shown to have potential as a means to solve several other large-scale combinatorial search problems.

For his contribution to the invention of the RSA cryptosystem, Adleman was a recipient along with Ron Rivest and Adi Shamir of the 2002 ACM Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of Computer Science.

Fred Cohen, in his 1984 paper, Experiments with Computer Viruses has credited Adleman with coining the term "virus".