MacArthur Fellows Program

Peter W. Shor

Computer Science | Class of 1999

Title
Computer Science
Location
Florham Park, New Jersey
Age
40 at time of award

Peter Shor is a computer scientist who is helping to shape the field of quantum computing.

Using tools from physics, computation, and information theory, his discoveries offer the possibility of an exponential increase in the speed of an important class of calculations. In one recent proof, Shor demonstrated that quantum uncertainty can be harnessed to calculate prime factors of integers substantially faster than any known algorithm based on digital logic. This proof opens opportunities for future advances in number theory and exposes an unexpected vulnerability of computer cryptography, which relies on the difficulty of factoring to provide its protection. Shor expanded this theoretical work by providing important clues to practical implementation. He explained how the counterintuitive phenomenon of entanglement can be used to observe the behavior of a quantum computer without affecting its calculations, an essential feature that any working, quantum computer must possess. He also showed how specific methods of encoding information decrease a quantum computer's sensitivity to noise or other imperfections.

Shor is a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was previously affiliated with AT&T Labs-Research.

Shor received a B.S. (1981) from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. (1985) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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