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Stanisław Marcin Ulam

Stanisław Marcin Ulam (born 13 April 1909, died 13 May 1984). A brilliant mathematician from a wealthy, assimilated Galician Jewish family. A graduate of Lviv Polytechnic, already during his studies he became involved with the Lviv School of Mathematics (Kazimierz Kuratowski, Stefan Banach). After obtaining his doctoral degree (1933), he would visit academic centres in Europe and the United States – and he was eventually employed at Harvard University (1935).

In 1941, as an American citizen Ulam became a professor at the state university in Wisconsin.From 1943 to 1967 he was involved with the team working on the Manhattan project at the Los Alamos nuclear research centre; Ulam worked closely with Robert Oppenheimer and Enrik Thermi, just to mention two names. He thus made a measurable contribution to the construction of both the atomic and hydrogen bombs. In the latter case, Ulam modified the design, suggesting his own original solution known as the Teller-Ulam configuration (which he invented together with the Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller).

The fields of mathematics and mathematical physics that Ulam explored include multiplicity theory, topology, measure theory, ergodic theory and branching processes. He also created numerical methods and was one of the first scientists in the world to make full use of computers in his projects (he pioneered the use of computers in the heuristic research of dynamic systems). When the Manhattan Project was completed, Ulam was appointed as Dean of Mathematics at the University of Colorado.

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