In memoriam: Marvin Stein

Long-time computer science and engineering professor Marvin Stein passed away on Feb. 27, 2015, at the age of 90. Stein is often referred to as the "father of computer science at the University of Minnesota."

Stein was born on July 15, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Carl Stein and Marion Marks. When he was three, his mother contracted tuberculosis. Stein, his parents and older brother Harvey, moved to Los Angeles for her treatment and remained there after her death.

Stein grew up in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles, which was known for its eclectic mix of people. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1941. Stein continued his education at UCLA, but left to serve in the United States Army during WW II. While at Roosevelt, Stein met Ruth Meyerson, who car pooled with him to UCLA. He and Ruth married on July 15, 1944, his twentieth birthday. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last summer.

After World War II, Stein resumed his education at UCLA, earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1951. After working at UCLA Mathematics Institute of Numerical Analysis (1948-1952), he became a research engineer at Convair in San Diego, California, working on the development of the Atlas missile. It was the height of the McCarthy Era and Stein's security clearance was revoked because he was Jewish. By the time the action was overturned by the court, he was ready for a change.

In 1956, Stein accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, where he was promoted in full professor in 1961. Although he spent his entire academic teaching career at the University of Minnesota, he was also a visiting professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science (1963-1964) and the Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities (1971-1972). Through his life and work in Israel, Stein established a close connection to that country, personally and professionally, that would last to the end of his life.

Stein is affectionately referred to as "the father of computer science at the University of Minnesota." Some in the 1950s doubted that machines could be used to solve complex problems, while others didn't think that working on machines to solve problems was a good idea. Stein begged to differ, understanding the need for development of computers and the impact computers could have on our society. He became director of the Numerical Analysis Center, taught the University's first courses in high-speed computation, and created with others the first graduate program in Computer and Information Sciences in 1967.

In 1970, Stein served as founding department head for computer sciences. He had an important role in the discovery of the conjugate gradient method and he was the principal inventor of the Stein-Pope division method and the Stein-Rose sorting algorithm. His children fondly remember their dad making his huge flashing computers punch out cards shaped like Mickey Mouse and, years later nodding sagely while they showed him their iPads. Stein continued as a professor until his retirement in 1997.

The Marvin L. Stein papers are held in the University of Minnesota Archives.