Samuel Karlin

Samuel Karlin
Born (1924-06-08)June 8, 1924
Janów, Lublin Province, Second Polish Republic
Died December 18, 2007(2007-12-18) (aged 83)
Palo Alto, California, United States
Citizenship American
Nationality Poland
Fields mathematical sciences
population genetics
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater Illinois Institute of Technology
Princeton University
Doctoral advisor Salomon Bochner
Doctoral students Christopher Burge[1]
Thomas LIggett
John W. Pratt
Known for BLAST
Karlin-Rubin theorem (UMP tests of monotone likelihoods)
geometry of moments[2]
Total positivity
Tchebycheff systems
Optimal experiments
Notable awards National Medal of Science (1989)
John von Neumann Theory Prize (1987)

Samuel Karlin (June 8, 1924 – December 18, 2007) was an American mathematician at Stanford University in the late 20th century.


Karlin was born in Janów, Poland and immigrated to Chicago as a child. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, Karlin became an atheist in his teenage years and remained an atheist for the rest of his life.[3]

Karlin earned his undergraduate degree from Illinois Institute of Technology; and then his doctorate in mathematics from Princeton University in 1947 (at the age of 22) under the supervision of Salomon Bochner. He was on the faculty of Caltech from 1948 to 1956, before becoming a professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford.[3][4]

Throughout his career, Karlin made fundamental contributions to the fields of mathematical economics, bioinformatics, game theory, evolutionary theory, biomolecular sequence analysis, and total positivity.[4] He did extensive work in mathematical population genetics. In the early 1990s, Karlin and Stephen Altschul developed the Karlin-Altschul statistics, a basis for the highly used sequence similarity software program BLAST.[3]

Karlin authored ten books and more than 450 articles.[4] Karlin was a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He won a Lester R. Ford Award in 1973.[5] In 1989, President George H. W. Bush bestowed Karlin the National Medal of Science "for his broad and remarkable research in mathematical analysis, probability theory and mathematical statistics, and in the application of these ideas to mathematical economics, mechanics, and population genetics."[6]

Karlin's three children all became scientists.[7] One of his sons, Kenneth D. Karlin, is a professor of chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and the 2009 winner of the American Chemical Society's F. Albert Cotton Award for Synthetic Chemistry.[8] His other son, Manuel, is a physician in Portland, Oregon. His daughter, Anna R. Karlin, is a theoretical computer scientist, the Microsoft Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.[9]

Selected publications

See also


  1. Burge, Christopher; Karlin, Samuel (1997). "Prediction of complete gene structures in human genomic DNA" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Biology. 268 (1): 78–94. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1997.0951. PMID 9149143.
  2. Artstein, Zvi (1980). "Discrete and continuous bang-bang and facial spaces, or: Look for the extreme points". SIAM Review. 22 (2). pp. 172–185. doi:10.1137/1022026. JSTOR 2029960. MR 564562.
  3. 1 2 3 Sam Karlin, mathematician who improved DNA analysis, dies
  4. 1 2 3 Sam Karlin, influential math professor, dead at 83
  5. Karlin, Samuel (1972). "Some mathematical models of population genetics". Amer. Math. Monthly. 79: 699–739. doi:10.2307/2316262.
  6. US NSF - The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details
  7. Sam Karlin, mathematician who improved DNA analysis, dead at 83, Stanford University, retrieved 2011-01-16.
  8. Kenneth Karlin's web site at JHU, retrieved 2011-01-16.
  9. Anna Karlin's faculty web page at U. Washington, retrieved 2011-01-16.
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