Gordon Foster

Last updated
F. Gordon Foster
Born(1921-02-24)24 February 1921
Died20 December 2010(2010-12-20) (aged 89)
Nationality Irish
Known for Foster's theorem
Scientific career
Doctoral advisor David George Kendall

Frederic Gordon Foster (24 February 1921 – 20 December 2010) [1] was an Irish computational engineer, statistician, professor, and college dean who is widely known for devising, in 1965, a nine-digit code upon which the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is based. [1]

Irish people Ethnic group, native to the island of Ireland, with shared history and culture

The Irish are a nation and ethnic group native to the island of Ireland, who share a common Irish ancestry, identity and culture. Ireland has been inhabited for about 12,500 years according to archaeological studies. For most of Ireland's recorded history, the Irish have been primarily a Gaelic people. From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse-Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England's 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. Today, Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and the smaller Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland hold various national identities including British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination thereof.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Contents

Life

Foster was born in Belfast, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, between 1920 enactment and 1921 implementation of the partition of Ireland. He studied at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and began advanced study in mathematics at Queen's University Belfast. During World War II, he was recruited from Queen's by MI6 to work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park.

Belfast City in the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Northern Ireland. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015. Belfast suffered greatly in the Troubles: in the 1970s and 1980s it was reported to be one of the world's most dangerous cities, with a homicide rate around 31 per 100,000.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Historical sovereign state from 1801 to 1921

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

Partition of Ireland Division of the island of Ireland into two jurisdictions

The partition of Ireland was the process by which the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland divided the island of Ireland into two separate polities. It took place on 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The smaller of the two, Northern Ireland, was duly created with a devolved administration and forms part of the United Kingdom today, but the larger one, intended as a home rule jurisdiction to be known as Southern Ireland, failed to gain acceptance. The territory instead became independent and is now a sovereign state also named Ireland and additionally described as the Republic of Ireland.

After the war he resumed studies at Magdalen College, Oxford. A lecture on feedback control by Norbert Wiener, regarded as the originator of cybernetics, proved to be a great influence on Foster's research. Upon completing his PhD at Magdalen, he accepted an offer to lecture on his research at the University of Manchester, where he met Alan Turing, a Bletchley Park veteran who became known as the father of computer science. Turing introduced him to the Manchester Mark I computer and enlisted his help working on it. In 1956 Foster joined the faculty of the London School of Economics (LSE), first as an assistant lecturer in statistics, then lecturer and reader. In 1964, he was appointed to the chair of computational methods. While at LSE he helped develop operations research as an academic discipline.

Magdalen College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Magdalen College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1458 by William of Waynflete. Today, it is one of the wealthiest colleges, with a financial endowment of £273.2 million as of 2018, and one of the strongest academically, setting the record for the highest Norrington Score in 2010 and topping the table twice since then.

Norbert Wiener American mathematician

Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.

Cybernetics theory of communication and control based on regulatory feedback

Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities. Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine." In other words, it is the scientific study of how humans, animals and machines control and communicate with each other.

Most noteworthy, in 1965 while at the LSE, Gordon Foster was commissioned by WH Smith, the book publisher and bookseller, to develop a computerised filing system as part of the publisher's drive to modernise its growing company. Gordon Foster developed for WH Smith, a 9 digit code which he named the Standard Book Numbering System (SBN). This code was very successful and was rapidly adopted by all UK publishers and booksellers. In 1970, the International Standard Organisation (ISO) expanded the SBN to 10 digits by adding an initial zero and the code was renamed to become the International Book Numbering System: ISBN.

The ISBN was born, and is now used worldwide by all publishers and booksellers. [2] [3]

In 1967 Gordon Foster was asked by Trinity College Dublin to start a Department of Statistics, and became professor of statistics at Trinity College Dublin. He promoted statistical analysis and computer applications in several constituent schools and academic departments. He fostered a lively forward thinking postgraduate and undergraduate program, with courses highly applicable to current statistical problems of the day. He also set up the Statistics and Operations Research Laboratory, known for outreach to industry and public services. He was elected Dean of Engineering and System Sciences. [1]

Trinity College Dublin Sole college of the University of Dublin, founded 1592

Trinity College, officially the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university located in Dublin, Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother" of a new university, modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but unlike these other ancient universities, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" are usually synonymous for practical purposes. The college is legally incorporated by "the Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and other members of the Board" as outlined by its founding charter. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland's oldest surviving university. Trinity College is widely considered the most prestigious university in Ireland, in part due to its extensive history. In accordance with the formula of ad eundem gradum, a form of recognition that exists among the three universities, a graduate of Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin can be conferred with the equivalent degree at either of the other two universities without further examination. Trinity College, Dublin is a sister college to St John's College, Cambridge and Oriel College, Oxford.

Foster died in Dublin, 20 December 2010. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Alan Turing English mathematician and computer scientist

Alan Mathison Turing was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.

Bletchley Park WWII code-breaking site and British country house

Bletchley Park is a 19th-century mansion and estate in Milton Keynes (Buckinghamshire) that became the principal centre of Allied code-breaking during the Second World War. The mansion was constructed during the years following 1883 for the English financier and politician Sir Herbert Leon in the Victorian Gothic, Tudor, and Dutch Baroque styles, on the site of older buildings of the same name. During World War II, the estate housed the British Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), which regularly penetrated the secret communications of the Axis Powers – most importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers; among its most notable early personnel the GC&CS team of codebreakers included Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. During the war and for many years thereafter, the nature of the work there was a closely guarded secret.

Colossus computer Early cryptanalysis computer

Colossus was a set of computers developed by British codebreakers in the years 1943–1945 to help in the cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cipher. Colossus used thermionic valves to perform Boolean and counting operations. Colossus is thus regarded as the world's first programmable, electronic, digital computer, although it was programmed by switches and plugs and not by a stored program.

Max Newman British mathematician

Maxwell Herman Alexander Newman, FRS,, generally known as Max Newman, was a British mathematician and codebreaker. His work in World War II led to the construction of Colossus, the world's first operational, programmable electronic computer, and he established the Royal Society Computing Machine Laboratory at the University of Manchester, which produced the world's first working, electronic stored-program electronic computer in 1948, the Manchester Baby.

Turing machine Mathematical model of computation that defines an abstract machine

A Turing machine is a mathematical model of computation that defines an abstract machine, which manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules. Despite the model's simplicity, given any computer algorithm, a Turing machine capable of simulating that algorithm's logic can be constructed.

A one instruction set computer (OISC), sometimes called an ultimate reduced instruction set computer (URISC), is an abstract machine that uses only one instruction – obviating the need for a machine language opcode. With a judicious choice for the single instruction and given infinite resources, an OISC is capable of being a universal computer in the same manner as traditional computers that have multiple instructions. OISCs have been recommended as aids in teaching computer architecture and have been used as computational models in structural computing research.

I. J. Good British statistician, cryptographer

Irving JohnGood was a British mathematician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing. After the Second World War, Good continued to work with Turing on the design of computers and Bayesian statistics at the University of Manchester. Good moved to the United States where he was professor at Virginia Tech.

In physics and cosmology, digital physics is a collection of theoretical perspectives based on the premise that the universe is describable by information. It is a form of digital ontology about the physical reality. According to this theory, the universe can be conceived of as either the output of a deterministic or probabilistic computer program, a vast, digital computation device, or mathematically isomorphic to such a device.

Tommy Flowers British engineer, helped to design Colossus during World War II

Thomas Harold Flowers, BSc, DSc, MBE was an English engineer with the British Post Office. During World War II, Flowers designed and built Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer, to help solve encrypted German messages.

The School of Informatics is an academic unit of the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, responsible for research, teaching, outreach and commercialisation in informatics. It was created in 1998 from the former Department of Artificial Intelligence, the Centre for Cognitive Science and the Department of Computer Science, along with the Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI) and the Human Communication Research Centre.

Alfred Dillwyn "Dilly" Knox, CMG was a British classics scholar and papyrologist at King's College, Cambridge and a codebreaker. As a member of the Room 40 codebreaking unit he helped decrypt the Zimmermann Telegram which brought the USA into the First World War. He joined the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at the war's end.

Gordon Welchman British cryptoanalyst

William Gordon Welchman was a British-American mathematician. During World War II, he worked at Britain's secret codebreaking centre, "Station X" at Bletchley Park, where he was one of the most important contributors. After the war he moved to the US, and worked on the design of military communications systems.

Conel Hugh ODonel Alexander British cryptanalyst, chess player, and chess writer

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, known as Hugh Alexander and C. H. O'D. Alexander as a pen name, was an Irish-born British cryptanalyst, chess player, and chess writer. He worked on the German Enigma machine at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and was later the head of the cryptanalysis division at GCHQ for 25 years. In chess, he was twice British chess champion and earned the title of International Master.

John William Jamieson Herivel was a British science historian and former World War II codebreaker at Bletchley Park.

Edward Hugh Simpson CB was a British code breaker, statistician and civil servant. He was best known for describing Simpson's paradox along with Udny Yule.

Jack Copeland philosopher, logician, historian of science

Brian Jack Copeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, and author of books on the computing pioneer Alan Turing.

Donald Michie British artificial intelligence researcher

Donald Michie was a British researcher in artificial intelligence. During World War II, Michie worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, contributing to the effort to solve "Tunny", a German teleprinter cipher.

Gordon Bamford Preston was an English mathematician best known for his work on semigroups. He received his D.Phil. in mathematics in 1954 from Magdalen College, Oxford.

Joan Clarke English cryptanalyst

Joan Elisabeth Lowther Murray, MBE was an English cryptanalyst and numismatist best known for her work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Although she did not personally seek the spotlight, her role in the Enigma project that decrypted Nazi Germany's secret communications earned her awards and citations, such as appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), in 1946.

References

The Mathematics Genealogy Project is a web-based database for the academic genealogy of mathematicians. By 13 February 2019, it contained information on 238,725 mathematical scientists who contributed to research-level mathematics. For a typical mathematician, the project entry includes graduation year, thesis title, alma mater, doctoral advisor, and doctoral students.