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Derrick Norman Lehmer | D.H. and Emma Lehmer

Derrick H. Lehmer (1905-1991)
and Emma Trotskaia Lehmer (1906- )
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The photoelectric number sieve, ca. 1933.
10.0 x 8.0 inches

Dick Lehmer was a leading authority on number and computation theory, and he made signal contributions in the field of mechanical (later computer) applications to mathematical problems. With his father’s help and encouragement, he constructed a mechanical sieve capable of factoring very large numbers, which was displayed to the public at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933. 

He later helped develop and test ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), the first modern digital computer. 

During the loyalty oath controversy in the early 1950s, Lehmer briefly left Berkeley to serve as Director of the National Bureau of Standards’ Institute for Numerical Analysis. 

“An Account of the Proposed Machine,”  corrected typescript,
6 l. , ca. 1930
8.5 x 11.0 inches
At left is presumably a draft of the successful proposal to the Carnegie Institution for funding to construct the Lehmers’ first electric factoring machine, a signal achievement in both number theory and computer science.

“…To perform the operation with pencil and paper one must start with the million or so numbers among which the solution is known to lie.  Actually to write out all these numbers is obviously impossible … We therefore propose to construct a machine which will canvass a million numbers in about three minutes ….”

“Notes on the Lehmer’s contributions to FLT,” autograph manuscript
9 l., n.d.
8.5 x 11.0 inches

This manuscript in Dick Lehmer’s hand reminisces about Vandiver's work on Fermat's Last Theorem, “the best-known of all Diophantine problems” that remained unsolved for 350 years, until 1993.  Here Lehmer also demonstrates, once again, the importance of his collaboration with Emma. Together they computed many Bernoulli numbers for Vandiver.

Guide to Tables in the Theory of Numbers
Washington, D. C.: National Research Council, National Academy of  Sciences, 1941
7.0 x 10.0 inches

The Guide to Tables in the Theory of Numbers is Lehmer's best known monograph, and demonstrates the close link with his father's career.
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