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Alonzo Church (June 14, 1903 – August 11, 1995) was an American mathematician and logician who made major contributions to mathematical logic and the foundations of theoretical computer science. He is best known for the lambda calculus, Church–Turing thesis, proving the undecidability of the Entscheidungsproblem, Frege–Church ontology, and the Church–Rosser theorem.
Alonzo Church was born on June 14, 1903 in Washington, D.C. where his father, Samuel Robbins Church, was the judge of the Municipal Court for the District of Columbia. The family later moved to Virginia after his father lost this position because of failing eyesight. With help from his uncle, also named Alonzo Church, he was able to attend the Ridgefield School for Boys in Ridgefield, Connecticut.^{[1]} After graduating from Ridgefield in 1920, Church attended Princeton University where he was an exceptional student, publishing his first paper, on Lorentz transformations, and graduating in 1924 with a degree in mathematics. He stayed at Princeton, earning a Ph.D. in mathematics in three years under Oswald Veblen.
He married Mary Julia Kuczinski in 1925 and the couple had three children, Alonzo Church, Jr. (1929), Mary Ann (1933) and Mildred (1938).
After receiving his Ph.D. he taught briefly as an instructor at the John Corcoran.^{[4]}
A deeply religious person, he was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian church.^{[5]}
He died in 1995 and was buried in Princeton Cemetery.
Church is best known for the following accomplishments:
The lambda calculus emerged in his 1936 paper showing the unsolvability of the Entscheidungsproblem. This result preceded Alan Turing's work on the halting problem, which also demonstrated the existence of a problem unsolvable by mechanical means. Church and Turing then showed that the lambda calculus and the Turing machine used in Turing's halting problem were equivalent in capabilities, and subsequently demonstrated a variety of alternative "mechanical processes for computation." This resulted in the Church–Turing thesis.
The lambda calculus influenced the design of the LISP programming language and functional programming languages in general. The Church encoding is named in his honor.
Many of Church's doctoral students have led distinguished careers, including John G. Kemeny, Stephen C. Kleene, Simon B. Kochen, Maurice L'Abbé, Isaac Malitz, Gary R. Mar, Michael O. Rabin, Nicholas Rescher, Hartley Rogers, Jr., J. Barkley Rosser, Dana Scott, Raymond Smullyan, and Alan Turing.^{[6]} A more complete list of Church's students is available via Mathematics Genealogy Project.
A deeply religious person, he was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian church.
Cryptography, Artificial intelligence, Software engineering, Science, Machine learning
Epistemology, Computer science, Philosophy, Aesthetics, Metaphysics
Computer science, David Hilbert, Alan Turing, Foundations of mathematics, Mathematics
United States, Mathematical logic, Computer science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Amherst College
Computer science, Linguistics, Lambda calculus, Mathematics, Programming language
Hypercomputation, Alan Turing, Turing machine, Recursion, Lambda calculus