In the 1950s – a time when behemoth computers occupied entire rooms – Berni Alder saw the potential for more than just quick calculations.
A consultant at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Alder competed with the weapons teams and other scientists for precious time on a few of the world’s only supercomputers to solve his problems of physics – including how particles move.
Considered to be the inventor of molecular dynamics, Alder developed the Monte Carlo methods, which use computers to apply results from random sampling to reproduce the behavior of atoms and molecules.
Today, Alder’s techniques are widely used across biology, physics and other fields.
“It certainly exceeded any expectation I had to how far we could go and how big the computers would get,” he said. “In the early days, we could do 100 particles in one hour on the Univac. Now, we can now do a trillion particles in an hour.”