Skip to content

Rabin’s 80th Birthday

July 21, 2011

Rabin’s celebration

Michael Rabin is brilliant.

His work has touched large areas of mathematics as well as large areas of computer theory. Without his work theory would be completely different today. Michael’s work is an incredible mine with three rich veins. There are deep, hard theorems—for instance his work on the second-order theory of two successors. There is foundation laying—for instance his work on finite automata with Dana Scott. And there is practical work—for example his beautiful string matching algorithm with Richard Karp, and much more. His concept of oblivious transfer is a bedrock primitive in secure computation. Not surprisingly he has been honored with many prizes, including the Turing Award, the Israel Prize, the Emet Prize, the Harvey Prize, the Dan David Prize, and others.

Today I would like to announce that we will celebrate his four-score birthday two days early on August 29-30—he was born September 1, 1931. This wonderful event is hosted by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Michael Mitzenmacher, of Harvard, informs me that the conference is open to the public, but it would be very helpful if you would please register by August 25. Please do. Get there by any means possible—walk, train, car, or plane. It is a great chance to honor one of the most influential, most productive, most famous mathematicians of our times. For more information, see the conference website. Again please register.


As you might expect there will be a series of speakers who will honor Michael in various ways. Some may present new results, others old stories, but all will attempt to make this celebration one that will bring that wonderful smile to Michael’s face. The speakers include Yonatan Aumann, Michael Ben-Or, Karp, myself, Silvio Micali, Mitzenmacher, David Parkes, Tal Rabin, Ron Rivest, Scott, Madhu Sudan, Salil Vadhan, Moshe Vardi, and Avi Wigderson.

Open Problems

Ken and I hope that many many can be there, to help honor Michael.

As we celebrate, let us also remember the famous violinist Michael Rabin, who died tragically in 1972 at age 35. We can think of some in our field who would have changed it further had they lived longer. We all wish Michael many more milestones—a celebration at ninety, at one hundred, and beyond.

A final open problem: here is a challenge for you to try.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2011 8:34 am

    Congratulations to Michael and Ruth and also to Tal and Sharon. Michael is not only one of the great thinkers of our time but he also have a very special personality. I have known Michael as a student and as a junior colleague for decades and recently I had the privilege to have quite a few conversations and to know him even better. Mazal Tov!

  2. richde permalink
    July 28, 2011 11:16 am

    Congratulations to Michael! You mentioned oblivious transfer which prompted me to dig out Michael’s handwritten manuscript outlining the protocol. Rabin was visiting Georgia Tech, and I happened to mention a vaguely worded problem that you (Dick) and I had talked about. We had called it “hostage exchange.” I described the problem and its motivation to Michael and then despaired of making anything interesting out of it. True to form he said “Not so fast…” A few days later he sent me a draft of what would turn into his paper on oblivious transfer.

  3. August 1, 2011 7:42 am

    “I’ve gone ahead and bookmarked at so my friends can see it too. I simply used Rabin’s 80th Birthday Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP as the entry title in my bookmark, as I figured if it is good enough for you to title your blog post that, then you probably would like to see it bookmarked the same way


  1. Cricket, 400, and Complexity Theory « Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s