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Len Adleman, RSA cryptography, DNA computing, Turing Award (2002)

Leonard Max 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 a co-inventor of the RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) cryptosystem in 1977, and of DNA computing. RSA is in widespread use in security applications, including https.

Born in California, Adleman grew up in San Francisco, and attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his BA in mathematics in 1968 and his Ph.D. in EECS 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.

In 2002, he and his research group managed to solve a 'nontrivial' problem using DNA computation. Specifically, they solved a 20-variable 3-SAT problem having more than 1 million potential solutions. They did it in a manner not unlike the one Adleman used in his seminal 1994 paper. First, a mixture of DNA strands logically representative of the problem's solution space was synthesized. This mixture was then operated upon algorithmically using biochemical techniques to winnow out the 'incorrect' strands, leaving behind only those strands that 'satisfied' the problem. Analysis of the nucleotide sequence of these remaining strands revealed 'correct' solutions to the original problem.

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.

He is one of the original discoverers of the Adleman-Pomerance-Rumely primality test.

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

Adleman was the mathematical consultant on the movie Sneakers.

He has three children Jennifer (b. 1980) Stephanie (b. 1984) and Lindsey (b. 1987). Adleman is also an amateur boxer and has sparred with James Toney.[1]

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