In this wide-ranging interview, Dr. Traub discusses his emigration to the US as a young boy, his early knack for numbers and chess, and his eye-opening experience at the Bronx High School of Science. He became hooked on computers at IBM’s Watson Labs while a graduate student at Columbia University. He earned his PhD at Columbia in computational quantum mechanics. While at Bell Labs during the “golden 60s” he created optimal iteration theory and worked on the Jenkins-Traub algorithm for polynomial zeros. During the 70s he worked on algebraic complexity and was co-inventor of several algorithms that bear his name. Together with Henryk Woźniakowski he started the field of information-based complexity which studies algorithms and complexity for continuous problems. More recently he worked on computational finance and then quantum computing. He also built institutions. In the 70s he led the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University thru a difficult period. He was the founding chair of the Computer Science Department at Columbia, founded the Journal of Complexity, and was the first chair of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Academies. He also describes his love for skiing, tennis, hiking, travel, and good food. He recognized the potential threats to US cyber infrastructure early on, and regrets waiting ten years before becoming vocal about our security vulnerabilities. He summarizes his life and career as being “very lucky”.
Information-based complexity (IBC); algebraic complexity; optimal iteration theory; computational finance; Quantum computing; Bell Labs; Carnegie Mellon; Columbia University; Santa Fe Institute (SFI); CSTB; Journal of Complexity