American Go E-Journal

Elwyn Berlekamp, game theorist and coding pioneer, dies at 78

Tuesday April 23, 2019

Elwyn Berlekamp, a UC Berkeley mathematician and game theorist whose error-correcting codes allowed spacecraft from 2019.04.23-berlekamp-games3-750Voyager to the Hubble Space Telescope to send accurate, detailed and beautiful images back to Earth, died April 9 at his home in Piedmont, California, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

A professor emeritus of mathematics and of electrical engineering and computer sciences, Berlekamp was 78.
One of his passions was the Asian game of Go, which he analyzed in the book Mathematical Go — one of the rare books on Go to be translated from English into Japanese, rather than vice versa. He focused on Go’s endgame, said mathematician and colleague David Eisenbud, and once challenged a top Japanese Go master to a series of endgames selected by Berlekamp. He beat the Go master in seven straight games, playing both sides of the board — white and black. “It was mathematics against intuition, and mathematics won,” said Eisenbud, director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). “It was an impressive demonstration of which he was very proud.”
– excerpted from Berkeley News; read more about Berlekamp here.
photo: Berlekamp playing the game Amazons with Georg Menz in 2015. Menz was that year’s Berlekamp Postdoctoral Fellow at MSRI. (Photo courtesy of David Eisenbud)