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Stephen Kleene
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person Professor Stephen Cole Kleene (1909-01-05 -
1994-01-26) /steev'n (kohl) klay'nee/ An American
mathematician whose work at the University ofWisconsin-Madison helped lay the foundations for modern
computer science. Kleene was best known for founding the
branch of mathematical logic known as recursion theory and
for inventing regular expressions. The Kleene star and
Ascending Kleene Chain are named after him.
Kleene was born in Hartford, Conneticut, USA. He received his
bachelor of arts degree from Amherst College in 1930. From
1930 to 1935, he was a graduate student and research assistant
at Princeton University where he received his doctorate in
mathematics in 1934. In 1935, he joined UW-Madison
mathematics department as an instructor. He became an
assistant professor in 1937.
From 1939 to 1940, he was a visiting scholar at Princeton's
Institute for Advanced Study where he laid the foundation
for recursive function theory, an area that would be his
lifelong research interest. In 1941 he returned to Amherst as
an associate professor of mathematics.
During World War II Kleene was a lieutenant commander in the
United States Navy. He was an instructor of navigation at the
U.S. Naval Reserve's Midshipmen's School in New York, and then
a project director at the Naval Research Laboratory in
Washington, D.C.
In 1946, he returned to Wisconsin, eventually becoming a full
professor. He was chair of mathematics, and computer sciences
in 1962 and 1963 and dean of the College of Letters and
Science from 1969 to 1974. In 1964 he was named the Cyrus
C. MacDuffee professor of mathematics.
An avid mountain climber, Kleene had a strong interest in
nature and the environment and was active in many conservation
causes. He led several professional organisations, serving as
president of the Association of Symbolic Logic from 1956 to
1958. In 1961, he served as president of the International
Union of the History and the Philosophy of Science.
Kleene pronounced his last name /klay'nee/. /klee'nee/ and
/kleen/ are extremely common mispronunciations. His first
name is /steev'n/, not /stef'n/. His son, Ken Kleene, wrote: "As far as I am aware this
pronunciation is incorrect in all known languages. I believe
that this novel pronunciation was invented by my father."