Reid Barton: Mathematician and Computer Scientist

Reid BartonReid Barton

A resident of Arlington, Massachusetts, Reid W. Barton is the son of two environmental engineers. Officially homeschooled since third grade, his mathematical and computer science abilities were evident from an early age. In grade three, he was tutored in game theory by a computer science graduate student. When he was only 10 years old, Barton obtained the maximum score of 5 on the AP Calculus examination.

Barton began his formal mathematical studies in middle school, while also taking part-time classes at Tufts University in chemistry (5th grade), physics (6th grade), Swedish, Finnish, French, and Chinese. Mentored by MIT computer scientist Charles E. Leiserson beginning in eighth grade, he honed his abilities on CilkChess, one of the top computer chess programs. Later, while a student at MIT, Barton worked with Leiserson and contributed to the CilkChess program.

Barton graduated recently from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently a graduate student at Harvard University in mathematics. He won the 2005 AMS Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student, awarded jointly by the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America. Barton is also a Putman Fellow, one of only seven four-time winners of the annual mathematics competition for undergraduate college students (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004).

In high school, Barton was the first participant to ever win four gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiads (IMO) for pre-collegiate students (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), and he was one of four perfect scorers in 2001. That year he also placed first at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), earning his second IOI gold medal with a score of 580 out of 600, 55 points ahead of his nearest competitor. In addition, he is the only person to have won both the IMO and the IOI.

Barton competed on MIT’s ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest team, finishing fifth and second at the 2003 and 2001 World Finals respectively. He was on the 2nd and 5th place MIT team at the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, and reached the finals in the TopCoder Open (2004), semi-finals (2003, 2006), the TopCoder Collegiate Challenge (2004), semi-finals (2006), TCCC Regional finals (2002), and TopCoder Invitational semi-finals (2002).

Besides his academic achievements, Barton is an accomplished pianist and cellist, performing in Chamber Music Society groups. He is an avid bridge player who also enjoys playing intramural soccer and hockey. Barton spends his summers teaching younger students at various academic training programs such as the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program.

Barton’s favorite mathematical formula is related to the “polar moment of inertia,” used to predict an object’s ability to resist torsion. Barton’s favorite book is “Gödel, Escher, Bach” by Douglas Hofstadter.  The 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winner examines common interdisciplinary themes in the lives and work of logician Kurt Gödel, artist M. C. Escher, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach. [The author’s great achievement in “Gödel, Escher, Bach” was making abstract topics accessible and entertaining, enabling readers to visualize difficult mathematical concepts in the spirit of Lewis Carroll.]

In 2008, Barton published a joint thesis, “Generalizations of Kempe’s Universality Theorem,” with Timothy G. Abbott under the advisement of Erik Demaine at MIT. Professor Demaine is a famous homeschooled mathematician and computer scientist in his own right:


Updated: January 21, 2023 — 2:58 pm

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