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W. J. Cody

Oral History (pdf)
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Interviewer: Thomas Haigh

W.J. Cody discusses his career as a mathematical software specialist within Argonne National Laboratory, paying particular attention to his creation of the FUNPACK, , (and others). Cody graduated from Elmhurst College in Illinois, before spending a year in Korea as a radio operator with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. A year after his return to America he entered the University of Oklahoma, where he obtained a Masters degree in Mathematics, eventually transferring to Northwestern from which he earned a Ph.D. Having previously spend two summer internships working with computers at Los Alamos, he returned to the National Laboratories with a job as an analyst in Argonne’s Applied Mathematics division, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. Cody discusses his work and that of his colleagues, including Joe Cook, Larry Wos, Henry Thatcher and Burt Garbow. He pays particular attention to the development of numerical software libraries at Argonne, in which he played a considerable part both as program librarian and as a developer of mathematical software. He pioneered the testing and certification of special and elementary functions, pursuing this interest within ACM SIGNUM and through collaboration with Hirondo Kuki on the SHARE Numerical Analysis project. This interest was an importance influence on Argonne’s NATS (National Activity to Test Software) project of the early 1970s, which produced the celebrated EISPACK system as well as Cody’s own elementary functions package FUNPACK. He discusses the development, testing, distribution and certification procedures used on this project, and the relationship of Argonne’s mathematical software to users and commercial libraries. Cody subsequently produced the special functions package SPECFUN. In the 1980s he worked on ELEFUNCT, an elementary functions package accompanied by a book and by a routine to automatically detect and exploit machine characteristics called MACHAR. Cody played an important role in the IEEE 754 working group that produced the standard for hardware floating point, and from 1981 to 1987 he chaired a committee producing a radix-independent version of the standard. Cody was also a longtime member of the IFIP 2.5 Working Group devoted to mathematical software.

Key words: mathematical software, FUNPACK, SHARE Library, NATS, EISPACK, SPECFUN, ELEFUNCT, IEEE 754 hardware floating point standard, IFIP 2.5 Working Group

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation

Time frame:  1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's

People: Joe Cook, Larry Wos, Henry Thatcher, Burt Garbow, Nancy Clark, Hirondo Kuki, Don Amos, Wayne Fullerton, John Rice, Velvel Kahan, Jim Poole,Wayne Cowell, Cleve Moler

Location: University of Oklahoma, Northwestern University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory

Citation: W. J. Cody Oral history interview by Thomas Haigh, 3 and 4 August, 2004, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA


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