History of Numerical Analysis


Oral Histories



Seymour Parter

Oral History (pdf)

Interviewer: Philip Davis

Seymour Parter discusses his career in mathematics, numerical analysis, and computing.

Parter grew up in Chicago and attended its pulic schools, and he received a bachelor's and master's degree in mathematics from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. At IIT, he wrote a master's thesis on genralized metric spaces under the supervision of Karl Menger. In March of 1951, he took a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was soon sent to the National Bureau of Standards in Washinton DC to master to computing on the SEAC. On his return to Los Alamos, 8 months later, he was assigned to program under the direction of Robert Richtmyer. He was subsequently sent to the Atomic Energy Commission computing facility at New York University to work on problems for Los Alamos on the new UNIVAC machine. While an employee of Los Alamos, he began working on a PhD in mathematics, finishing his thesis with Lipman Bers in 1957. Upon finishing his degree, Parter decided to try academia, taking jobs at MIT and Indiana, where he held joint appointments in mathematics and in the research computing centers. He subsequently held an assisant professorship at Cornell and a visiting position at Stanford, before taking a permanent position in mathematics at Wisconsin. Parter discusses his work in complex analysis (quasi-conformal maps), sparse matrix  theory and its connection to graphs, numerical methods for partial differential equations, iterative methods, and preconditioners for numerical solutions of  matrix equations.He retired from Wisconsin in 1996. For the future, he stresses the importance of working on menaingful solutions to stochastic problems in biology and physics rather than just relying on simulation.

Key words:  SEAC, UNIVAC, quasi-conformal maps, sparse matrix theory, graph theory, elliptic partial differential equations, iterative methods, preconditioners

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

Time frame: 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's

People:  Karl Menger, Robert Richtmyer, John Curtiss, John Todd, Olga-Taussky Todd, Lipman Bers, Kurt Friedrichs, Thomas Manteuffel

Location:  Illinois Institute of Technology, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Bureau of Standards, New York University, University of Wisconsin

Citation:  Seymour Parter, Oral history interview by Philip Davis, 20 April, 2004, Brown University. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA

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