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Manuel Blum



Manuel Blum

, the Bruce Nelson Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University

is a pioneer in the field of theoretical computer science and the winner of the 1995 Turing Award 

in recognition of his contributions to the foundations of computational complexity theory and its 

applications to cryptography and program checking, a mathematical approach to writing programs 

that checks their work.  

He was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where his parents settled after fleeing Europe in the 1930s, 

and came to the United States in the mid-1950s to study at the Massachusetts Institute of 

Technology. While studying electrical engineering, he pursued his desire to understand thinking 

and brains by working in the neurophysiology laboratory of Warren S. McCulloch and Walter 

Pitts, then concentrated on mathematical logic and recursion theory for the insight it gave him on 

brains and thinking. He did his doctoral work under the supervision of artificial intelligence 

pioneer Marvin Minsky and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1964.  

Dr. Blum began his teaching career at MIT as an assistant professor of mathematics and, in 1968, 

joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley as a tenured associate professor of 

electrical engineering and computer science. He was Associate Chair for Computer Science, 

1977-1980 and in 1995 was named the Arthur J. Chick Professor of Computer Science. Dr. Blum 

accepted his present position at Carnegie Mellon in 2001.  

The problems he has tackled in his long career include, among others, methods for measuring the 

intrinsic complexity of problems. Blum’s Speedup theorem is an important proposition about the 

complexity of computable functions. The Blum axioms give a machine-independent way to 

understand the complexity of computation, whether that computation is done by a human or a 

computer.  Since his early work on the intrinsic limitations of computing devices, Blum’s research 

has focused on the single unifying theme of finding positive, practical consequences of living in a 

world where computational   resources are bounded. In his work, Blum has shown that secure 

business transactions, pseudo-random number generation, program checking, and more recently, 

CAPTCHAs for detecting bot intruders, are possible in part because all computational devices are 

resource bounded. 

Blum’s current research includes the HumanOID (Human Oriented ID) project, a cryptographic 

project designed to develop a challenge-response authentication protocol that humans can perform 

entirely in their heads. For this, people must be able to authenticate themselves to a system while 

a powerful machine-based adversary that knows the protocol listens on the line and records every 

challenge and response. The system would have to be incapable of learning to impersonate that 


Manuel Blum



A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, he is 

a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the 

Advancement of Science, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Dr. Blum has 

held a Sloan Foundation Fellowship and received a University of California at Berkeley 

Distinguished Teaching Award, their Faculty Research Award, the Sigma Xi’s Monie A. Ferst 

Award, the Carnegie Mellon Herbert A, Simons Teaching Award, among other honors. He is the 

author of more than fifty papers published in leading scientific journals and has supervised the 

theses of thirty-five doctoral students, who now pepper almost every major computer science 

department in the country. The many ground-breaking areas of theoretical computer science 

chartered by his academic descendants are legend.  



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