Research Areas


Elwyn Ralph Berlekamp was born in Dover, Ohio on September 6, 1940. He received a B.S. (1961), M.S. (1962), and Ph.D. (1964) in Electrical Engineering from MIT and joined the U.C. Berkeley faculty in 1964 as Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering. He left to work at Bell Labs Mathematics Research Center in Murray Hill, New Jersey in 1967 but returned to Berkeley in 1971 to teach as a full professor in the EECS and Mathematics departments. He has had a half-time appointment since 1983 and retired in 2002.

Berlekamp founded Cyclotomics, Inc. in the early 1970s, a research and engineering firm specializing in the development and implementation of high-performance error control systems for digital communications and mass data storage. Cyclotomics was acquired by Eastman Kodak in 1985 and Berlekamp remained as founding President until June 1989. Under his leadership, Cyclotomics designed and developed a variety of innovative electronic subsystems and full-custom integrated circuits that implement novel algorithms for error-correcting codes, deskewing, and synch acquisition for aerospace and commercial applications. In 1984, Cyclotomics "Bit-Serial" Reed-Solomon encoders were formally adopted as the NASA standard for deep space communications. NASA's Voyager communication system, for example, which reached Neptune in August, 1989, uses a Reed-Solomon code with Berlekamp decoding. On the commercial side, all compact disk players use R-S Codes with Berlekamp decoding.

Berlekamp has also been active in several small companies in the sectors of computers-communications and finance. He was chairman of the Board of Trustees of MSRI from 1994–1998, and of the International Computer Science Institute from 2001–2003. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Other past service includes terms as president of the IEEE Information Theory Society, chairman of the Science Advisory Board for the Institute of Defense Analysis, the governing board of the American Mathematical Society, the Science Advisory Board for Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories, MIT Corporation Visiting Committees, and a trustee of two independent high schools.

Berlekamp has 12 patented inventions, mostly dealing with algorithms and devices for error-correction and synchronization. He has more than 100 publications, including two books on algebraic coding theory and six books on the mathematical theory of combinatorial games, including his seminal landmark book, "Algebraic Coding Theory" (McGraw-Hill, 1968; Aegean Park Press, 1984). This book was the standard work in the field and was considered an indispensable "bible" for engineers in the field, in academia, and industry. He is the co-author of "Winning Ways" a two-volume treatise on the combinatorial theory of two-person perfect information games. Berlekamp is a fellow of the IEEE (1972) and was President of the IEEE Information Theory group in 1973. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977. He co-chaired the organizing committees of MSRI workshops in 1994 and 2000 whose published proceedings are entitled "Games of No Chance" and "More Games of No Chance." Since 1999, he has co-written the "Puzzles Column" in the Emissary newsletter. [Based on bios by Samuel Sloan and MSRI]

Mailing address:

Elwyn & Jennifer Berlekamp Foundation

5665 College Avenue, Suite #330B

Oakland, CA 94618

(510) 655-4214

(510) 655-4204 fax

For administrative information contact Inna (

see also

Prof. Berlekamp passed away on April 9, 2019.


  • 1964, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, MIT
  • 1962, M.S., Electrical Engineering, MIT
  • 1961, B.S., Electrical Engineering, MIT

Selected Publications

  • E. R. Berlekamp, "Idempotents among partisan games," in More Games of No Chance, R. Nowakowski, Ed., Vol. 42, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 1-23.
  • E. R. Berlekamp, "Sums of N x 2 Amazons," Institute of Mathematics Statistics Lecture Notes - Monograph Series, vol. 35, pp. 1-34, 2000.
  • E. R. Berlekamp, "Bit-serial Reed-Solomon encoders," IEEE Trans. Information Theory, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 869-874, Nov. 1982.
  • E. R. Berlekamp, "Long primitive binary BHC codes have distance d - 2n lnR sup -1/log n," IEEE Trans. Information Theory, vol. IT-18, no. 3, pp. 415-426, May 1972.
  • E. R. Berlekamp, "Block coding for the binary symmetric channel with noiseless, delayless feedback," in Error-Correcting Codes, H. B. Mann, Ed., New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1968, pp. 61-88.

Awards, Memberships and Fellowships