Image of computer code

H. Marston Morse

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

For extraordinary achievement in creating analytic theories in the large, for statesmanship in the world of mathematics, and for distinguished service to his country in war and peace.

While serving in the U.S. Army Coast Artillery, H. Marston Morse and his fellow soldiers were not privy to the location and destination of their ship. However, the time of local noon was announced daily. Based on this, Morse – the mathematical mind that he was – figured out how to calculate the ship’s location.

He saw the beauty of numbers in everything.

“But mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched by the same madness and genius,” he said.

In his lifetime, Morse, who taught at both Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study, wrote 176 papers, four books and numerous lectures.

The bulk of his research focused on critical point theory, later dubbed Morse Theory for his dedication to the field.

Morse Theory is a function of topology that can be applied to geometric shapes. These shapes, when divided into thin slices like a deck of cards, provide quantitative data for analysis.