Eugene Lawler, Computer Scientist


Eugene Lawler, Computer Scientist

Lawler Residence: 1121 Oxford Street

Born in N.Y. City, Eugene Lawler grew up in Evanston, Illinois, earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in applied mathematics, and taught at the University of Michigan for 10 years. He traveled to many countries for research purposes and met his future wife, Marijke van Doorn, while working on a project in Amsterdam. Lawler, a stalwart of the University of California, Berkeley, Computer Science Department from 1971 to 1994, was a spirited person who could one day be immersed in mathematical algorithmic issues and on the following day roll on the floor in celebration of San Francisco 49er football hero Dwight Clark’s super-human “catch.”

For more than 30 years, Lawler studied the theory of algorithms, computability, and computational complexity. His textbook Combinatorial Optimization: Networks and Matroids (1976) had a pronounced impact in giving the discipline breadth and depth. A later study, The Traveling Salesman Problem: a Guided Tour of Combinatorial Optimization (1985), which he edited with Jan Karel Lenstra, Alexander Rinnooy Kan and David Shmoys, is now a classic benchmark reference.

Lawler sponsored UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Reentry Project to help minorities, especially women, enter graduate programs. In the early 1990s he led the effort at UC Berkeley to complete the Human Genome Project—an international scientific effort at various universities to determine aspects of human DNA.

Lawler was a warm and generous person who left his mark on many students. He was humble and never condescending, encouraging students to make their own astonishing contributions to science. After his death, the University of California’s Eugene Lawler Prize was established. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of computational biology, and Ireland’s Waterford Institute of Technology has named a graduate program specializing in the discipline in his honor.

Contributed by Jim Samuels, Marijke Lawler, Arthur Gill, Jan Karel Lenstra, Barbara Simons, Paula Hawthorn, 2014

  • Lawler Residence, photo (2014) R. Kehlmann

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society