You are here

Ronald Lewis Graham, 2003-2004 MAA President

Born: October 31, 1935, Taft, California; Died: July 6, 2020, San Diego, California

Ronald Lewis Graham was a professor at the University of California, San Diego, noted for his research in discrete mathematics. He worked at Bell Laboratories for 37 years. Learn more about how the UC San Diego CSE Department is honoring Graham's legacy with an established endowed chair

Presidency: 2003-2004

Graham became the fiftieth president of the MAA at the joint MAA-AMS meeting in January 2003, where he also was awarded the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Leroy P. Steele Prize for lifetime achievement as a research mathematician.

In December 2003, Graham was mentioned in connection with his combinatorics work in the New York Times article "In Archimedes' Puzzle, a New Eureka Moment."

Graham is the sixth person, after Hedrick, McShane, Wilder, Mac Lane, and Bing, to serve as both president of the MAA and president of the AMS. He is likely the first president of either organization to serve as president of the International Jugglers' Association.

Education and Career

Graham attended college at the University of Chicago, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Alaska. After obtaining his Ph.D. at Berkeley in 1962, Graham joined Bell Laboratories and worked there until 1999, eventually becoming its chief scientist. He was the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and the chief scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Graham's Number, the best known upper bound for a problem in Ramsey theory, is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as "the highest number ever used in a mathematical proof." The number, originating in a 1971 paper by Graham and B.L. Rothschild, cannot be expressed in conventional notation; Donald Knuth's arrow notation, invented in 1976, is necessary. As of 2003, the best known lower bound for this problem is 11.

Graham was active in the MAA on committees and as first vice president in 1982-83. He received the Carl B. Allendoerfer Award (1990) and the Lester R. Ford Award (1991), the two MAA awards for articles of expository excellence. He was the 1994 Earle Raymond Hedrick Lecturer and the 1997-99 George Pólya Lecturer.

External Resources

Faculty website at the University of California, San Diego

MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive biography

AMS Presidents Timeline biography

"Juggling Numbers: UC San Diego Professor Honored for Work in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science"

2003 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement citation, biographical sketch, and response (pdf)

"A New President for the MAA" (pdf), from MAA FOCUS

Mathematical People: Profiles and Interviews, by Donald J. Albers and Gerald L. Alexanderson

National Academy of Sciences interview

Papers of Ron Graham

California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology staff and academic personnel page and academic participant page

The Mathematics Genealogy Project