Arianna Rosenbluth Dies at 93; Pioneering Figure in Data Science


In 1956, the Rosenbluths moved to San Diego, where Marshall Rosenbluth took a job at General Atomics, a division of General Dynamics that had been established to explore peaceful uses of atomic energy. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1978.

In addition to her daughter Jean and her son, Alan, Dr. Rosenbluth’s survivors include two other daughters, Robin and Mary; five grandchildren; a step-grandchild; and two great-grandchildren.

After Los Alamos, Arianna Rosenbluth did not work professionally again, focusing instead on raising her children.

“This was someone at the start of an extraordinary career, really punching above anyone’s weight at the time,” said Benjamin Pope, a computational astrophysicist and lecturer at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

“So she makes a serious contribution to statistical physics and then she’s never heard from again,” said Dr. Pope, who created a Wikipedia page about Dr. Rosenbluth. “And today you couldn’t throw a rock down the street in Palo Alto or Berkeley without finding someone who’s running MCMC,” he added, referring to the technology-rich cities in California.

Still, Dr. Rosenbluth maintained her love of science.

“All while I was growing up, I remember her constantly working out equations just for her own mental exercise,” her daughter Jean, a federal magistrate in Los Angeles, said. Alan Rosenbluth said his mother had pursued independent research in knot theory, a branch of mathematics.

Andrew Gelman, a statistician and political scientist at Columbia University, pointed out that many applications today use an algorithm called Stan, which is based on a variant of the Metropolis algorithm. Dr. Gelman and his colleagues named the program after Stanislaw Ulam, a co-creator of the Monte Carlo methods.

“Maybe we should’ve called it Arianna,” he said.


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