Prof. Dr. Thomas Beth, 1949-2005
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Thomas Beth. He died early in the morning of Wednesday, August 17 at the age of 55. This followed a long illness that he endured with his own characteristic blend of scientific study and great personal dignity.
I first met Thomas in Amsterdam in 1987 and was immediately impressed by his passionate interest in research in our field. I did not know at the time that it was he who had organised the meeting in Burg Feuerstein in 1982 that was to lead to the series of conferences now known as "Eurocrypt" that I was attending.
Over the following years I learned more of Thomas's work and his acknowledged position as one of the founders of the modern cryptologic community in his native Germany.
Thomas studied Mathematics, Physics, and Medicine. He received his diploma in Mathematics in 1973 from Universität Göttingen and was awarded a DAAD fellowship in Mathematics at the Mathematics Department of the Ohio State University. He received the Dr.rer.nat. from Universität Erlangen in 1978 where he was working in the Department of Computer Science Institut für Mathematische Maschinen und Datenverarbeitung) until he obtained the degree of Dr.Ing.habil. in the area of Informatics in 1984. He was subsequently appointed Professor of Computer Science at the University of London and head of the Department of Computer Science and Statistics at the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College from where he headed back to Germany for taking a chair of Informatik at Universität Karlsruhe in Europe's largest Department of Computer Science. In 1988 he was also appointed Director of the newly-founded European Institute for System Security (E.I.S.S.). In the past decades since his appointment at Karlsruhe he built up the Institut für Algorithmen und Kognitive Systeme (IAKS) jointly with his colleagues Hans-Hellmut Nagel and Jacques Calmet.
The institute has specialized in several areas of modern algorithm engineering and computer algebra combined with image processing and picture interpretation and mathematical knowledge engineering. This work was complemented by the fundamental and applied research work by intensive research and development in engineering of public-key algorithms, protocol design, protocol verification and cryptanalysis of systems in the E.I.S.S.
He was a visiting professor to King's College, London, England, Universität Innsbruck, Austria, the University of Wollongong, Australia and the Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.
Thomas published several books in different areas including: Design Theory jointly with Jungnickel and Lenz, Kryptographie jointly with Hess and Wirl. A monography on methods of fast Fourier transforms, Verfahren der schnellen Fourier Transformation. These publications are accompanied by many volumes of lecture notes in computer algebra, coding theory and system security. More than 120 research papers in and around the essential areas of Computer Science, Mathematics and Electrical Engineering have been published. He has been editor of the Journal of Cryptology, AAECC, Designs, Codes and Cryptography, Surveys of Mathematics for Industry, and Journal of Computer Security.
His recent research interests included cryptography, applied algebra and computer algebra with its applications in signal processing, optical algorithms, microtechnology, and quantum computing. It was this latter subject that I discussed at length with him when we last spent some time together. He brought me up to date with his practical work on the construction of the fundamental components of a quantum computer and the challenges he faced. He explained in simple to understand terms both the underlying physics and the effects that successful production of a quantum computer would have on our society. It is deeply ironic that we should learn of his death the day after Ralph Merkle had presented the IACR Distinguished Lecture at Crypto 2005 where he discussed the implications of nanotechnology and quantum computing to our field - an area in which Thomas could tell us a great deal.
Our Association has lost a great character and a great pioneer, he is survived by his wife Sabine, their three daughters and many grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them at this sombre time.