Artifact Details


Stenger, Frank SIAM oral history

Catalog Number





In this interview conducted by Phil Davis, Frank Stenger discussed his career in numerical methods, including his best known work on sinc methods, and his long tenure at the University of Utah. Stenger, who left his native Hungary as a youth and moved Canada, began by studying engineering physics at the undergraduate and master's level at the University of Alberta before switching to mathematics for his PhD, also at Alberta. Stenger then moved to the University of Michigan, where he spent three years before a rift in the mathematics department motivated him to accept a position at the University of Utah, where he has remained for over thirty years. Stenger also spent one year at the National Bureau of Standards, where he worked most closely with Frank Olver, over one year at the University of Montreal Research Center, one year at the University of British Columbia, and a total of over one year at the University of Tsukuba, and at the University of Aizu.

Stenger's work with sinc methods – a term coined in the 1950s by Harry Nyquist and Claude Shannon–began when he substantially revised a paper written by John McNamee and Lee Lorch on Whittaker’s Cardinal Function. The work took off, as sinc methods turned out to be an excellent tool for making approximations. They can be used to solve problems in a wide range of areas, including in electrical and fluids problems, and is the primary wave tool use in wavelet applications. Stenger argues that sinc methods have not received as much exposure as they deserve, in part because he is not naturally inclined to promotion or marketing, and in part, because finite element methods were developed somewhat earlier, and thus became popular first.

In addition to numerous articles, Stenger has authored a 565-page text called “Numerical methods based on Sinc and analytic functions,” a jointly authored text on approximation called “Selected topics in approximation and computation” and has produced a software packages for quadrature, for solving ordinary differential equations, and most recently, a package, written in MATLAB, for utilizing sinc methods for solving nearly all problems stemming from applications, including partial differential and integral equations. Interestingly, during his time at Michigan, Stenger shared an office with MATLAB developer Cleve Moler. Also, a former student, John Lund and his colleague, Ken Bowers, wrote a 335-page text, “Sinc methods for quadrature and differential equations.”

Stenger has observed a recent downward trend in student interest in numerical methods, but notes that interest in particular fields is often cyclical. Stenger, who considers himself more of a generalist than a specialist because of his wide-ranging interests, believes that special functions can be extremely valuable, and suggests that their usefulness have been underestimated by some.




Davis, Philip, Interviewer
Stenger, Frank, Interviewee


SIAM and U.S. Department of Energy

Place of Publication

Providence, RI, USA


20 p.



Copyright Holder

Computer History Museum




Sinc numerical methods; Approximation; Quadrature; Ordinary differential equation (ODE); Wavelets; MATLAB (Programming language)

Collection Title

Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) oral history collection


Gift of SIAM and the US Department of Energy

Lot Number