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Alan C. Hindmarsh

Oral History (pdf)
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Interviewer: Thomas Haigh

Alan C. Hindmarsh discusses his career as a mathematical software specialist within Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, with particular attention to his work on the GEAR, LSODE and ODEPACK families of high performance ordinary differential equation (ODE) solvers. Hindmarsh obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from Stanford where he worked with Charles Loewner. During this time he interned as a mathematical programmer at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and in the Meson Physics division of Los Alamos. After graduation in 1968 he took a permanent job at Lawrence Livermore, and remained there until his retirement in 2002. He discusses the growth of this group, its relationship to users and its use of mathematical software libraries. Hindmarsh also explains changes in technology and patterns of lab funding which led to a decline in its commitment to mathematical software, leading to a dismantling of the central mathematical software group in 1989. Hindmarsh wrote or co-wrote a large number of ODE packages, including LSODE, VODE, CVODE and ODEPACK. His first widely distributed package, GEAR, was based on the DIFSUB routine produced by Bill Gear.  His collaborators included George Byrne, Linda Petzold and Peter Brown. Hindmarsh also documents the development of a community interested in writing ODE solver software. In particular, ODEPACK was originally intended as collaboration between staff members at different laboratories, and Hindmarsh discusses both the original goals of the project and the tensions which prevented its full realization.

Key words: mathematical software, ODEPACK, DIFSUB

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Energy

Time frame: 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's

People: C. W. Gear, George Byrne, Linda Petzold, Peter Brown

Location: California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Citation: Alan C. Hindmarsh Oral history interview by Thomas Haigh, 5 and 6 January, 2005, Livermore, California. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA


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