Born in Latvia, he moved to Germany after the Second World War. He received his Bachelor's degree in Physics from the University of Marburg, then emigrated to the United States for his Master's degree in Mathematics at the University of Kansas. He received his Ph.D in Mathematics from Caltech.
Thereafter, he worked for the General Electric Research Laboratory, developing and introducing computer science principles. In 1965, he became a professor at Cornell University, where he helped created its computer science department and was its first chairman.
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