William Kahan

From Academic Kids

William Velvel Kahan (born June 5, 1933, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) is an eminent mathematician and computer scientist. Kahan's main area of contribution has been numerical analysis — the study of accurate and efficient methods of solving numerical problems on a computer with finite precision — a field vitally important in physics and engineering.

He attended the University of Toronto, where he received his Bachelor's degree in 1954, his Master's degree in 1956, and his Ph.D. in 1958, all in the field of mathematics.

Among his many contributions, Kahan was the primary architect behind the IEEE 754 standard for floating-point computation (and its radix-independent follow-on, IEEE 854) and contributed an important algorithm for minimizing error introduced when adding a sequence of finite precision floating point numbers (see the Kahan Summation Algorithm).

He received the Turing Award in 1989, and was named an ACM Fellow in 1994.

He is now a professor of mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and continues his contributions to the ongoing revision of IEEE 754.

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