John Pasta bigraphy, stories - Physicist

John Pasta : biography

1918 - 1984

John R. Pasta (1918–1984) was an American Computational physicist and computer scientist who is remembered today for the Fermi–Pasta–Ulam experiment, a result much discussed among physicists and researchers in dynamical systems and chaos theory, and as the head of the department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1964 to 1970.


At Los Alamos National Laboratory Pasta would begin his work on his most famous projects.

In 1952, working under Nicholas Metropolis on the MANIAC I, John Pasta aided in the construction of an early computer that specialized in calculations around weapons design.

After working on the MANIAC I, Pasta continued on to work in the project he is most known for, the Fermi–Pasta–Ulam experiment.

After working alongside Enrico Fermi and Stanislaw Ulam Pasta went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission as the only computer expert, eventually developing the branch of mathematics and computers to an entire division.

Early life

Pasta was raised in New York City and did work as a real estate title examiner before becoming a New York City police officer from 1941 to 1942. Pasta followed his interest in physics and attended the City College of New York. During the depression Pasta was forced to drop out of the City College and find work, eventually being drafted into the Army during World War II, receiving the Bronze Star.

Following the war, Pasta was able to return to school at the City College through the GI Bill. Eventually receiving his PhD in theoretical physics from New York University in 1951. That same year he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


In 1964, Pasta became a research professor of physics at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, and later became the head of the department. He died in 1984.

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